The consulate can also provide guidance in cases involving child abduction and child custody in Bermuda and the United States.
The recovery of a child who is the subject of a custody dispute or is the victim of parental child abduction must be done in accordance with local laws in the foreign country.
- If the parents cannot reach mutual agreement about custody of or access to their children, legal action in the foreign country may be necessary. Foreign countries may not recognize or enforce a U.S. custody order.
- A consular officer cannot visit a child without permission from the child’s parent, guardian, or other custodian in the foreign country. If permission is refused and there is evidence of possible child abuse or neglect, the consular officer will request assistance from the appropriate local authorities. Evidence of child abuse or neglect would include, but not be limited to, police reports, medical reports, social services reports, etc.
- Consular officers at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad have no legal authority to obtain physical custody of abducted children and return them to a requesting parent.
- The consular officer cannot assist a parent to regain physical custody of a child by force or deception.
- The consular officer cannot provide legal advice, but can provide a list of attorneys (PDF – 218 KB) in the foreign country.
- A consular officer is not a social worker and is not able to conduct a professional home study or similar analysis of the child’s circumstances.
- The consular officer will report observations made during the welfare/whereabouts visit to the U.S. Department of State. This is simply a recitation of what the consular officer saw during the visit. While both parents may request to see the consular officer’s report, the report is not subject to editing by the parent(s), although parental disagreement with the report may be noted. The results of the consular welfare/whereabouts visit are provided to parents upon request in the form of a letter. Official Department of State communications are not generally released except under the procedures explained below. Please note that these reports are not released to parents whose parental rights vis-à-vis the child have been legally terminated.
- The Privacy Act prohibits release of information about a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident Alien to a third party absent a written waiver and the applicability of one of the Act’s conditions of disclosure. Requests for copies of U.S. Department of State records may be made according to the Freedom of Information Act 22 CFR 172 which provides particulars regarding requests for consular records or testimony for use in a court in the United States.
For a Child Custody/Parental Child Abduction Case of a U.S. citizen under the age of 18, please contact the U.S. Consulate, visit Travel.state.gov – International Parental Child Abduction, or contact the Office of Children’s Issues at 888-407-4747 (from the U.S. and Canada) or 202-501-4444 (from outside the United States).