U.S. Department of State & The I CARE Foundation Urge Lawyers To Join The 'Hague Convention Attorney Network': New Career Opportunities Exist In International Family Law

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The I CARE Foundation has launched a national recruitment campaign seeking attorneys to join the U.S. Department of State's "Hague Convention Attorney Network" in an effort to create a national network of lawyers willing to come to the legal aid of internationally abducted children.

The I CARE Foundation is urging lawyers interested in assisting the parents of children who have been internationally parentally abducted or who may be targets of international parental abduction to participate in the Department of State's "Hague Convention Attorney Network". The State Department's attorney network offers lawyers interested in joining the network with significant personal and professional opportunities, including the opportunity to increase their own skill-set and professional practice by being mentored by some of the nation's most experienced lawyers who practice international family law.

Joel S. Walter, a lawyer practicing in New York, a member of the I CARE Foundation, and a member of the Attorney Network said, "Having been involved in complex federal litigation cases for 40 years, I have to say that participating in the Department of State's "Hague Convention Attorney Network" has been extremely rewarding on a personal level because I am able to assist children who really need help. In fact, just recently we were able to reunite a young boy who had been abducted to the Ivory Coast for the past 8 years with his searching father. And this is incredible. But there is another side to this for attorneys who practice or are interested in family law, and that is that the knowledge and experience gained by participating in the Department of State's attorney network is priceless. As international abductions continue to rise to unthinkable numbers, there is a great need for skilled lawyers in this area."

International family law and the need for skilled attorneys familiar with this area is growing substantially. In fact, there are over 1,640 'reported' cases of International Parental Child Abduction originating from the United States according to the last published report issued from the Department of State to Congress. This number has nearly tripled since 2006 according to a recent report issued by the Government Accountability Office's ("GAO") recommendation to create a airline screening list for American citizens considered by the courts to be high-risk child abductors. According to the recently published resource guide "The World Turned Upside Down" written by Peter Thomas Senese and Carolyn Vlk, the growth rate of international abduction is conservatively estimated to be at 20% per year. According to the publication, from 2009 to 2020, if growth rates continue there will be over 50,000 American children criminally abducted abroad. The same publication, as cited in the special report titled 'Crisis In America' cites that it is estimated that there could be between 50,000 and 75,000 unreported cased of international child abduction originating from the United States during the same period.

The anticipated case load does not include or forecast litigation involving international child abduction prevention litigation. I CARE Foundation director Peter Thomas Senese, who has just released the critically acclaimed novel on international abduction titled Chasing The Cyclone commented, "The number of international child abduction prevention cases that the foundation is involved with are significant and represent more cases than actual abduction cases - which on its own account are substantial. Unquestionably, this is a growing field of law and there appears to be a shortage of qualified attorneys practicing in this area."

Alana Collins Bullis, an highly skilled attorney licensed in Washington and Oregon who recently led the legal efforts to reunite a mother with her abducted child added, "As a member of the Hague Convention Attorney Network, I have an opportunity to help protect children from crimes directed toward them, as any act of abduction is a crime against a child. Participating in the network and making a difference in the lives of innocent families targeted for abduction is a rewarding professional experience."

The Office of Children's Issues in the U.S. Department of State serves as the U.S. Central Authority for the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the "Convention"). The International Child Abduction Remedies Act ("ICARA"), establishes procedures for litigating Convention cases in the U.S. The U.S. Central Authority has numerous functions including facilitating the institution of judicial proceedings in the U.S. "with a view to obtaining the return of the child and, in a proper case, to make arrangements for organizing or securing the effective exercise of rights of access." In April of 2008, the U.S.Central Authority assumed the responsibility for all incoming cases, and overseeing a network of volunteer attorneys.

The "Attorney Network" provides critical assistance. Lawyers that join the "Attorney Network" are asked to consider taking Hague Convention return and access cases on a pro bono or reduced fee basis. There is never an obligation to take a case, and legal fees and expenses may be recoverable under the Convention's Article 26 and the implementing statute (42.U.S.C 11607), and under state law when state law remedies are pursued (e.g., UCCJEA). In addition, lawyers with and without Hague experience are welcome to join the Attorney Network, as the Attorney Network offers a host of information and mentor programs. In addition to incoming cases of abduction, attorneys can also represent parents in abduction prevention cases and outgoing abduction cases.

Patricia M. Lee, a Florida attorney practicing in the area of parental child abduction who is a senior mentor to the U.S. Department of State's "Hague Convention Attorney Network" and a director of the I CARE Foundation states, “I feel privileged to have been a referral attorney for the implementing agency for many years of my private practice. The trauma experienced by victimized children and parents when faced with a child abduction, especially in the international arena, is overwhelming, primarily due to the lack of experienced attorneys, but also, due to the great financial burden, and cultural and language barriers. When they have nowhere else to turn and are so desperate, being able to help these people has been a rewarding experience personally, as well as professionally. It is worth every hour I have spent climbing the learning curve in this little known area of the law. OCI has always been responsive and helpful in the practicalities of dealing with clients living abroad, and the network of mentor attorneys available across the U.S., nothing short of a wealth of information and assistance..”

If you are a lawyer interested in finding out more about the Hague Convention Attorney Network, visit http://www.travel.state.gov/childabduction and click “For Attorneys & Judges,” or write to HagueConventionAttorneyNetwork(at)state(dot)gov. To receive an application to join the Attorney Network, please visit http://travel.state.gov/pdf/AttorneyNetworkFlyer.pdf.

Media Contact:
I CARE Foundation
Maria Gina
mediarelations(at)stopchildabduction(dot)org
917.200.6217

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