Monday, April 11, 2011

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell Signs VA International Child Abduction Bill into Law

Virginia Governor McDonnell signed HB2361 into law last Wednesday; a bill drafted by the VA legislature based on a summary of international child abduction points, gleaned from a variety of sources encountered over the last 8 years. We had hoped it would have been signed the previous week, however a last minute technicality held up the final inking - no matter, HB2361 is now law and is effective July 1st, 2011.

The new law is a first.

Virginia is the first state to provide for the lawful seizure and forfeiture of the assets of abductors, and their accomplices, involved in the international abduction of children.

This applies whether children are abducted out of the US or into the Commonwealth of Virginia.

This is NOT a great law; but it is CERTAINLY A GREAT START!

Much of the initial Bill had been whittled away during the legislative process, notably the formation of a pool of judges to hear Hague Convention cases and mirror the efforts of the Federal judiciary.

This and other aspects are issues for the future.

I'd like to highlight the following people who were behind or inspired HB2361/SB1141:

Teresa Lauderdale - co-author of the Uniform Child Abduction Act; the idea for HB2361/SB1141 came about as a result of discussions with Teresa, an acknowledged expert and counselor in the field of international child abduction.

Larry Synclair - Larry is the father of Larry Jr, his son abducted to Russia from CA and recently back in contact after over a decade apart. Larry and I have never met, though we exchange the occasional email - Larry wrote the seminal Synclair-Cannon law for California, and is the uncredited source of the FL CAPA law which is based on the Synclair-Cannon Act. When I think of a legal or legislative situation I ask myself, "What would Larry do?" and occasionally I just ask Larry as there is nothing better than getting it from the horse's mouth.

Brandy Bond - co-proponent of HB2361/SB1141 and whirlwind lobbyist; mother of two children with international issues.

Finally, the legislators - it is because of the three following legislators we have a law - I believe they should all receive a note of thanks for getting this bill onto the statute books:

VA Delegate Jenn Mclellan - patron of HB2361
VA Senator Steve Martin - co-patron of SB1141
VA Senator Fred Quayle - co-patron of SB1141

For everyone who made phone calls and emails to VA legislators to garner support and increase awareness, thank you and see you next time :)

Pause for Thought

Now, before anyone starts backslapping one another - here are some of the reasons why this law is needed and why it needs to be strengthened even further:

Emily Koyama - abducted to Costa Rica

Marissa Joy Kvistad - abducted to Switzerland

Sage Bermudez - abducted to Mexico

Rebecca Boyle - abducted to Brazil

For many of you, these will be just names and photographs, but to me - I know the parents of all these children, and many more. Some have become my friends; people I care deeply for and in some instances I have photographs of these kids in my wallet with my own children.

None of these children has made it back home; and yet they are just a small selection from my records - the odds are that if you abduct a child, you will succeed. In passing HB2361, I sincerely hope the odds are reduced somewhat as far as Virginia is concerned, but only a fool is going to think this is enough.

The bottom line is we have to do more and there is a lot yet to do.


Van said...

I'm new to your blog so haven't had time to follow with events. However,I have had experience in Hague and Brussels II revised conventions. At first glance, I would like to raise the fact this new bill by Virginia state has absolutely no weight in international child abduction. Ceasing the abductor's assets would actually impossible to implement and possibly unlawful.

Emily's Dad said...

Thank you for your comment Van.

As the Commonwealth of Virginia has enacted this law, it is perfectly feasible to use it against abductors' or accomplices' assets located within the Commonwealth.

Enforcing a judgment beyond the jurisdiction of Virginia is going to be problematical - but this law is in situ to deal with situations such as an abductor who leaves but has pension rights here, or a home or other real estate - these are all perfectly and legitimately targets for seizure and forfeiture.

The same applies if an abductor abducts a child to Virginia and establishes themselves. Again, their assets are subject to seizure and forfeiture within Virginia.

This Bill does two things (providing there are assets) - it targets assets of abductors from VA and it targets assets of abductors to VA.

What happens outside of VA is another story Van.