H.R. 3212: Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2013

H.R. 3212

Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2013

December 11, 2013 (113th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, December 11, 2013, the House will consider H.R. 3212, the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2013, under a suspension of the rules.  The bill was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and has thirty-one cosponsors.  H.R. 3212 was marked up on October 10, 2013 by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and was ordered reported, as amended, by unanimous consent.

Bill Summary

H.R.3212 seeks to assist parents whose children have been abducted abroad by non-custodial parents by increasing compliance with the obligations made by countries as parties to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“Hague Abduction Convention”).

Specifically, H.R. 3212 requires the Secretary of State to submit to Congress an Annual Report on International Child Abduction.  The bill also requires the Secretary to ensure that U.S. diplomatic and consular missions abroad 1) use consistent reporting standards on parental child abduction cases; 2) designate at least one official to assist “left-behind parents”[1] from the U.S. who are visiting to resolve such cases; and 3) monitor developments in ongoing parental child abduction cases in their country of location.  H.R. 3212 directs the Secretary to seek a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to resolve parental child abduction cases with countries that are not parties to the Hague Abduction Convention and are not likely to become parties in the foreseeable future.  The bill requires that Members of Congress and Senators receive notification when a constituent reports a child’s abduction, as long as the parent consents to the notification.

If the President determines a foreign government has failed to resolve a parental child abduction case, the bill requires him to oppose the failure by choosing from a list of responsive actions.  When a foreign country engages in a pattern of noncooperation,[2]the bill requires the President to take additional, more serious action.  H.R. 3212 permits the President to delay or waive the sanctions in certain circumstances.

[1] A “left-behind parent” is defined as “an individual or entity . . . who alleges that an abduction has occurred that is in breach of rights of custody.”

[2] A pattern of noncooperation is defined as “the persistent failure (i) of a Convention country to implement and abide by the provisions of the Hague Abduction Convention; and (ii) of an MOU country to implement and abide by the provisions of the applicable MOU.”  Such persistent failure may be evidenced by the existence of ten or more unresolved abduction cases.


Since 1988, the [Hague Abduction Convention] has been the principal mechanism for enforcing the return of abducted children to the United States.”[1]  It “protects children from wrongful removal across international borders and provides procedures to aid in their safe return.  The Convention’s platform is intended to guarantee that one signatory nation will respect and follow the custody rights and laws of all other signatory nations. . . .  The Hague Convention does not act as an extradition treaty, nor does it purport to adjudicate the merits of a custody dispute.  It merely provides a civil remedy designed to preserve the status quo by returning an abducted child to the country of his or her ‘habitual residence’ and allowing the judicial authorities in that country to adjudicate the merits of a custody dispute.  As such, the proceeding is brought in the country to which the child was abducted or in which the child is retained.”[2]

Actions required by H.R. 3212 will enable Congress to better ascertain whether foreign countries are meeting their international obligations under the Hague Abduction Convention, and will give American parents and judges better information to assess the risks of non-return associated with allowing children to travel to certain countries.

[1] Alison M. Smith, International Parental Child Abductions, Congressional Research Service (Dec. 3, 2012) at 1.

[2] Id.


According to CBO cost estimates, implementing H.R. 3212 will have a gross cost of approximately $6 million per year.  However, the State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues (OCI) is funded by nonimmigrant visa fees, which OCI says it will increase to cover the cost of the bill’s implementation; therefore, “the net effect . . . on direct spending in any year and over the 2014-2023 period would be insignificant.”

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.