My Life As A Litigator

As a litigator who has represented clients in an assortment of complex legal matters including but not limited to international family law matters including divorce or child abduction as well as other civil or criminal matters that require my skills as a litigator, my experience and insight has been invaluable to individuals in crisis. As a Board of Director of the I CARE Foundation, I take great pride in playing an important role in an organization that has helped reunite many children of abduction, protected many others from being kidnapped, and has created multiple outreach initiatives to stop abduction and trafficking.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

New York Attorney Joel Walter: International Parental Child Abduciton Warning Sign Awareness Key To Stopping Abduction

New York City based lawyer
Joel Walter
is highly familiar with
International Parental Child Abduction
As an attorney with nealry 40 years practice including complex, difficult internatinal family law cases in New York City and as a board of director of the I CARE Foundation, I have had a birds-eye view of realizing how new concerns in family law practice have evolved due to the fact our society is becoming more multi-culturally integrated with each passing day, which I think is a very good thing.

With mobility there has come a rise in relationships between two individuals originating from different countries. Inevitably, some of these relationships result in the birth of a child or children. And then some of them fail. When they do, there are times when one of the parents desires to leave the country where the child lives (country of original jurisdiction), and return back to their native country. And usually, they desire to take the child with them.  However, as you may imagine, the other parent more than likely does not have a desire to allow this to happen. The most common result?  International parental                child abduction.

For any parent, the key to really preventing international child abduction from occurring is to first be aware of the warning signs of abduction.  If they exist, and if you are in New York City, contact New York City Family Law and Child Custody attorney Joel Walter immediately.  If you are at-risk parent living outside of New York and have concern about international child abduction, immediately contact an attorney who has experience in international family law.

The following is a list of Warning Signs that a potential international parental child abduction may be planned.  One word of caution: the majority of cross-border abductions occur when the targeted parent is clueless and completely caught off guard.

Warning Signs Of International Parental Child Abduction

The most obvious warning sign is if the other parent communicates in any way that they have intent or a desire to remove the child of the relationship out of the country. In most instances, if the other parent threatens you with the idea that they are going to abduct your child, the fact is that in most cases, the abduction is already planned and may be in progress.

1.       Be aware of the possibility of any abduction. Although there are no foolproof warning signs for abduction risk, some indicators should not be ignored. Do not stick your head in the sand and pretend that your child is not at risk.

2.       The vast majority of international child abductions occur by a parent who is determined to cause hardship and harm to the other parent. The instrument that they use in order to cause this harm is the child or children of the marriage. A significant number of leading therapist from around the world have stated in numerous reports that revenge is the primary and leading reason why one parent will try to end the other parent’s relationship with their own child. Therefore, if you are involved with a person who has jealous or revengeful tendencies, you must be aware that these characteristics are common in the vast majority of would-be parental child abductors.

3.       If the issues raised in Section 2 are true in your situation and your spouse or former spouse has in the past used the child of your marriage or relationship to cause you harm, pain, and suffering, or, has tried to control and manipulate your actions, then your concern should be magnified ten-fold. If the same individual has family members in another country or has lived in another country and has expressed a desire or threat to move there with your child, your concern should be magnified one-hundred fold.

4.       If there is evidence of previous abductions, disappearances, or threats to abduct the child by your spouse or ex-spouse, these indicators demonstrate that any new abduction threat is real and in more likelihood already planned.

5.       If your spouse or ex-spouse has citizenship in another country and strong emotional or cultural ties to their country of origin.

6.     Unexplainable removal of cash deposits and diminished assets, or unexplainable increases in credit card or bank debt.

7.       Concealment of new credit cards or bank debt.

8.    Concealed, hidden, and abrupt communication with individuals or family members living in a foreign country.

9.     Concealed, hidden, and abrupt communication with a lawyer.

10.    Frequent previous trips with child to a foreign country without other parent.

11.    Family and friends living in a foreign country.

12.    No strong ties to a child's home state.

13.    Strong foreign support network.

14.    No financial reason to stay.

15.    Possible use of the child as a pawn in order to gain access to non-joint assets.

16.    Engaged in planning activities such as quitting job; selling home; terminating lease; closing bank accounts or liquidating assets; hiding or destroying documents; or securing a passport, a birth certificate, or school medical records.

17.    A history of marital instability, lack of cooperation with the other parent, domestic violence, or child abuse.

18.    An announcement of an unexpected trip to another country with the child.

19.    The taking of easily transportable high-valued items such as jewelry upon departing to another country.

20.    Adamant unwillingness to leave the child behind with you while spouse travels to a foreign country.

21.    Shipping of personal items to a foreign country.

22.    A past tendency of your spouse or ex-spouse to relocate and live abroad.

23.    In certain jurisdictions – whereas both parents have a joint-right to custody – it is conceivable that a parent possessing a right of custodial authority over the child (this can be joint or sole custody) can legally remove the child of the marriage/partnership to another country for an undetermined period of time (claiming a holiday or short-term trip) without needing permission or actually informing the other parent if a pre-existing travel agreement is not in place already with the court. Essentially, a parent exercising their right of custody over their child can legally remove the child of the marriage/partnership without permission from the other parent if a court order is not issued previously. Not surprisingly, many international parental child abductions occur when one parent takes the child of the marriage to another country for an alleged short ‘family visit’ – however, in reality that person has no intention of ever returning with the child to the place of habitual residency. What typically happens next in these scenarios is that the abducting parent, unknown to the left behind parent, files for a divorce in the country they have abducted to. The divorce motion and affidavit filed makes claim to all sorts of cruel and dangerous behavior against the spouse (thus the reason why they are able to file under an ex parte [without notice] motion). Once the divorce law suit is filed, the abducting parent usually will go underground with the assistance of family and/or friends who usually assisted in the planning of this act. It is critical to note that deception is a critical element in these typical scenarios: the left behind parent is left to believe that their partner and child are on a short vacation (typically to visit family of the partner) at the time of their departure. A few days or weeks later, reality sets in with either a phone call or a letter saying that the partner and child/children are not returning, and that a divorce action has been filed. So, even if you think you are happily married, it is greatly advised to have a legally binding and court registered travel agreement in place prior to either parent exercising a right of custody is granted permission to leave the country with your child.

24.    Trust your instincts: if something feels wrong, it probably is. And remember that most international parental child abductions are carefully planned and typically involve the help of others.

25. BEWARE that the other parent may be trying to prepare an Article 13 Defense while remaining in the country prior to an abduction. This may include the other parent filing false police reports or social service reports against you.  REMEMBER that if the international courts have reason to believe that the return of the child may put the child in grave danger, they will not order for a return to the country of origin under Article 13. The use of false reporting right prior to an international child abduction is a strong indicator that an abduction is planned.

26. If a parent living as an alien citizen of one country but has limited roots to that country and is intending to travel with the child abroad, the risks of an abduction are great. MORE SO, if the parent who is planning to depart, say on a few week vacation, does not have the ability to purchase a return ticket back to the child's country of origin and/or does not have employment and/or does not have housing, then you can bet that upon departure for the so-called 'vacation', that parent is not returning. Remember, Intent and Sustainability issues are critical. If a person can't sustain themselves in the country that their child was born, and, they have no deep roots, why in the world would they want to stay?

28. If an alien-parent has deep connections to another country, and has deep connections to that country's senior government officials, there is a clear risk. Recently, I have been advising on a situation where the potential abductor has immediate family members in charge of overseeing a fleet of aircraft owned by a Middle East family (or you could say government). Obviously, access to aircraft and departing under immunity of a foreign government are very concerning.

29.  In gay and lesbian unions or marriages, remember, international child abduction impacts all families.  One thing that seems to stand out more than any other is great concern when one parent, particularly a birthing mother in a lesbian partnership, chooses to not include the other mother's name on a child's birth certificate. 

If you have concern that warning signs of international parental child abduction may exist and you reside in New York, Contact New York Matrimonial and Family Law Attorney Joel Walter immediately. Remember, international parental child abduction is a federal crime

Friday, September 28, 2012

New York Attorney Joel Walter: International Parental Child Abduction Needs Secondary Departure Screening Program


New York Attorney and I CARE Foundation Member Joel Walter: The Government Accountability Office's Recommendation To Create A Secondary Security Screening Program Similar To The Prevent Departure Program Will Help Prevent International Parental Child Abduction

New York City based attorney
Joel Walter
At a recent meeting that took place at the United States Mission to the United Nations between my fellow members of the I CARE Foundation and participants of the DOS International Visitor Leadership Program, it became clear that when a nation has the ability to ensure that any individual, even its own citizens, cannot depart their country without secure screening clearance in cases when an individual is considered a high-risk child abductor, the number of abductions will be dramatically reduced.  Presently, in the United States, the existing Prevent Departure Program only enables our government to place individuals who do not have a right of U.S. Citizenship on this vital screening list. However, in the rapidly growing world of international parental child abduction, it is critical that any individual, even those persons who are U.S. citizens and who are considered high-risk candidates of child abduction are in fact screened to ensure they are not illegally traveling abroad with a child.  Clearly, the I CARE Foundation's meeting at the United States Mission to the United Nations reinforced our belief and position that the Prevent Departure Program must be modified in order to protect as many as 125,000 American children who may be internationally kidnapped over the next decade if safe guard provisions are not put in place. 
By creating a secondary secure screening program similar to the Prevent Departure Program, we will be able to protect at-risk children of abduction who are intended to be illegally removed from the United States by a parent who possess a right of United States citizenship. With as many as 125,000 children who may be internationally abducted abroad over the next decade, modifying the existing Prevent Departure Program to include coverage of U.S. citizens is critical for at-risk American children . . . New York City based attorney Joel Walter

International parental child abduction prevention is a serious issue for tens of thousands of children targeted for criminal abduction each year as more marriages or partnerships fail, and child custody cases become more complex due to an increase in multi-cultural partnerships. Challenges at-risk parents face concerning cross-border abductions are many, including one in particular that has had serious consequences for many families: the United States does not have safety precautions and policy in place that will prevent a person who has either singular American citizenship or who has duel citizenship inclusive of a right of American citizenship that will screen a high-risk child abductor before they depart the country in order to ensure they are not leaving with a child they are not suppose to be removing.

I am very pleased to share that members of the I CARE Foundation are actively seeking for the United States government to support the highly regarded suggestions made in a groundbreaking United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) report has recommended for the creation of a new international parental child abduction prevention program aimed at establishing a non-departure fly list for United States citizens who have been determined by either our courts or law enforcement as potential high-risk international parental child abductors. 

In the report that Gerald Dillingham, the Director of Physical Infrastructure Issues for the U.S. GAO issued, the GAO recommendation states, "To further help prevent international parental child abduction involving airline flights, particularly for persons identified as high risk for attempting such abductions, we recommend that the Secretary of Homeland Security consider creating a program similar to the child abduction component of the Prevent Departure program that would apply to U.S. citizens."

The GAO report, titled 'Program Aimed At High-Risk Parent Abductors Could Aid In Preventing Abduction' was requested by Congressmen Jerry Costello (D - Illinois) and Tom Petri (R - Wisconsin), the respective Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the House of Representatives 'Subcommittee On Transportation And Infrastructure'. 

The landmark report states that since the year 2000, the number of outbound international parental child abduction cases reported to the Department of State, many of which likely included air travel, has nearly tripled. 

In addition, various nongovernmental child abduction prevention stakeholder reports, including the comprehensive studies published in Peter Thomas Senese and Carolyn Vlk's  resource guide on IPCA titled 'The World Turned Upside Down', indicate that the number of unreported international parental child abductions have also substantially increased due to various factors including population growth and immigration migration trends.

A response from Jim Crumpacker of the Departmental GAO/OIG Liaison Office of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concurs with the GAO recommendation to create a secondary security screening list in order to stop American child-citizens from being illegally abducted abroad; however, DHS cites challenges that exist to implement such a program. Specifically, "DHS strongly agrees that preventing international child abduction is a very important issue. The Department also agrees that expanding its current efforts along these lines to include pre-departure flight screening for potential U.S. citizen abductors could be helped in preventing some abductions." The response by DHS then states that there do exist challenges in implementing a secondary security screening list when he states, "However, a number of challenges exist to visibly implementing a high-risk abductor list for U.S. citizens. These include potential constitutional, operational, privacy, and resource issues, among others. DHS remains committed to continuing its work with the U.S. State Department, the airlines, and other stakeholders to better prevent these abductions. DHS will consider options to expand its efforts, as reasonably appropriate."

The statements by both the GAO and DHS of the grave necessity for a security screening program in the face of the rapid expansion of the criminal international child abduction of American child-citizens originating from the United States offers keen insight for the courts of local jurisdiction who are responsible in issuing orders and remedies that will protect a child from abduction.

The recommendation from the Government Accountability Office, agreed by both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, sends an important message to local courts involved with a child's welfare when they consider the potential for a child's international abduction that there is a real and growing problem of American child-citizens who are either criminally abducted from the United States or illegally detained in a foreign country after travel orders are granted. The local courts charged with oversight of a child must take note that the United States federal government is directly saying that existing state and federal government programs and policies created to prevent abduction are not enough to prevent child abduction, and serious loopholes exist that allow for children to be stolen and taken abroad - where too many defenseless children are never recovered. It is my hope that the convergence of multiple government agencies cited in the GAO report, each declaring that IPCA is a real problem, will cause local courts to realize their need to act prudently and with keen insight on all the local and international issues involving a potential child abduction. With thousands of children criminally abducted from the United States and taken abroad each year, the creation of a secondary security departure list will stop a substantial number of American child-citizen kidnappings from occurring each year. This recommended policy is exactly what the child abduction prevention community has been calling for.

According to the new report, government and non government stakeholders agree that the creation of a security program similar to the existing 'Prevent Departure Program' (established in 2003) which is administered by the Department of Homeland Security and utilized by the Department of State's Office Of Children's Issues may significantly reduce the growing number of cross-border parental child abductions each year. Presently, the 'Prevent Departure Program' allows for precautionary security checks to occur, whereas a legal or illegal alien resident living in the United States and who is considered to be a potential parental child abductor is prohibited from traveling abroad with their child due to court orders prohibiting the child from international travel. Additionally, in order for an individual to be placed on the Prevent Departure Program, either a court or law enforcement must determine that a potential international child abduction threat is a possibility. Once this occurs, it is up to the Department of State to request to the Department of Homeland Security that a person be placed on the non-departure list.

One of the great challenges targeted children and parents of international parental abduction face is the limited amount of abduction prevention laws or government programs in place to prevent a United States citizen, or more commonplace, a United States citizen possessing rights of dual citizenship from departing the country with a United States child citizen despite non-removal orders issued by a court. Specifically, one of the glaring ways that a parent of dual nationality living in the United States is able to illegally remove a child from the country is if they and their child travel by air on either a valid United States passport, or, if they travel on a secondary passport issued by their country of origin, which, in most cases, the child would have automatic rights of citizenship to. In both scenarios, a program such as the Prevent Departure Program would not be able to prevent abduction from occurring because the individual is a U.S. citizen and as such is not eligible for inclusion in the Prevent Departure Program. In addition, international abduction by either land or sea would have similar challenges.

If the Government Accountability Office recommendation is acted upon, and a new security screening process is created to protect children at risk who cannot be protected under present government programs, then children who are either the product of multicultural relationships targeted for illegal international removal or children of parents simply desiring to leave the United States with their child despite court orders will be significantly more protected.

Presently, the United States government has several programs in place to prevent international parental child abduction. This includes the following:

1. The State Department requires both parents or guardians consent prior to the issuance of a child's U.S. passport.

2. Parents can sign up for the State Department's Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program.

3. Parents can contact the State Department's Office of Children's Issues to place a suspected non-U.S. citizen abductor on the DHS's Prevent Departure.

Additionally, there currently exists no database that captures information pertaining to child custody and a court's orders concerning a child's travel restrictions. And even with court orders in place, it is difficult for law enforcement to uphold travel orders, in part due to the lack of an up-to-date nationwide database. When we add that the United States generally does not exercise departure controls at our borders for citizens possessing a valid passport from leaving our country, we begin to realize the ease at which certain individuals may be able to illegally remove a child. Clearly, the Prevent Departure Program offers abduction prevention assistance for targeted parents and children who are non-nationals. However, without a security screening process for parents possessing American citizenship that are considered high-risk abduction threats, prevention of these types of cases will remain extremely difficult. There is no question in my mind that children who face potential international abduction need the United States government to establish additional policy or program that will protect them such as the secondary screening program recommended by the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Homeland Security. The work conducted by the GAO Infrastructure team in thoroughly researching this issue and bringing to light the real need for their suggestions hits right on one of the key issues that attorneys like myself who practice international family law as well as targeted parents of abduction realize: that our nation's children must be protected from the cruel threat of parental kidnapping. I urge others to sign the White House petition site and send a message to our policymakers that we need to new abduction prevention programs.

Clearly, the lack of exit controls makes timing crucial in preventing international parental child abductions involving an airline flight. If a child has a valid passport, preventing an abduction on an international airline flight could be very difficult even if a parent has obtained a custody order barring such travel because that parent would not only need to involve law enforcement but do so with enough time to intercept the abducting parent and child before they board an international flight." The report further adds that often, "A parent does not know that another family member plans to board the child on an international flight, and thus may not contact law enforcement on time." Various studies show that many abductions occur when the targeted parent is unaware of the other parent's abduction scheme.

Of course there appears to be constitutional issues at hand too. For example, why should an American citizens should be treated differently than resident aliens when the risk of abduction is the same, if not greater, as we are addressing preventing abduction of children from or by parents resident in the United States?

According to the critically herald Government Accountability Office report, "Preventing international parental child abductions can be very difficult and depends on a number of factors, including the parent's knowledge of the abduction risk and the existence of clear custody status for the child. While prevention efforts available to parents, such as contacting the State Department to request a passport alert for a child, generally require that the parent have some knowledge beforehand of the risk that an abduction might occur, abductions often occur when the parent has no such knowledge. In general, prevention efforts also require clear custody status. For example, in order for a parent to add a child and suspected abductors to the DHS' Prevent Departure list, the requesting parent must demonstrate that he or she has parental or custodial rights to the child and that there is a court order barring the child from traveling internationally with the suspected abductor. However, custody laws vary by state, and many parents may not have such clear custody documentation available." The report further states that according to the Department of Justice, as cited in the GAO report, "In cases where the parent is unaware of the abduction risk, and where there is no documentation of the child's custody status, preventing such abductions is extremely difficult.

The GAO report further emphasizes the need for a secondary prevent departure list when it states in its report, "Department of Homeland Security officials told us that their Prevent Departure list - which requires a custody or court order specifically banning the child in question from traveling internationally with a specified parent or someone acting on behalf of the parent - is quite effective at preventing abductions involving non-U.S. citizen abductors. Officials at the State Department added that a similar list for U.S. citizens would be very effective in cases where there was already a custody or court order preventing the child from traveling abroad with the specified parent."

Obstacles for the Department of Homeland Security to implement a secondary prevent departure list do exist. According to the GAO report, "DHS may need additional statutory authority and potential additional financial resources to implement a high-risk abductor list for U.S. citizens. As previously discussed, the Immigration and Nationality Act provided departure control officers with the statutory authority necessary to prevent non-U.S. citizens from departing the country through the Prevent Departure program. This authority is insufficient to establish and administer such a list for U.S. citizens. Consequently, DHS would need to explore other current existing statutory authority to seek new authority to administer a program similar to the Prevent Departure program that would apply to U.S. Citizens."

I CARE Foundation director Peter Thomas Senese stated, "Reducing the capability of an abducting parent to depart the United States illegally with a child is one of the most pressing preventive matters our government must address. There are two significant steps that will dramatically reduce the number of children from abduction. One is the GAO recommendation for a security screening program geared for U.S. citizens considered to be high-risk abductors. The second method is to alter international travel documentation requirements for minors under 16 traveling by land or sea to Canada, Mexico, or to certain Caribbean-island nations under the existing Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Presently, under the WHTI, a child may present only a photocopy of their citizenship papers such as a photocopy of a birth certificate in order to travel abroad. As discussed in 'The World Turned Upside Down' I co-authored with Carolyn Vlk, existing WHTI departure policy for children traveling abroad by land or sea offer parental child abductors a significant method to abduct, and this too must stop. If the Prevent Departure program is replicated to prevent individuals possessing a right of U.S. citizenship, we will create a formidable barrier for would-be abductors intending to abduct defenseless children. Unquestionably, it is the goal of parents, advocates, the judiciary, law enforcement, lawmakers, and government agency stakeholders to prevent the abduction of children domestically or abroad. All programs designed to stop abducting parents who have circumvented existing abduction prevention policies will dramatically reduce the number of children criminally abducted abroad. I urge others to sign the petition in support of creating new abduction prevention programs and policies located on the White House website."

Obviously, the number of reported and unreported cases of U.S. child-citizens being abducted abroad continues to grow at significant and unacceptable rates. The exact number of abductions is unknown due to unreported cases of parental abduction to law enforcement of the Office of Children's Issues; however, we do know many thousands of U.S. child-citizens are abducted from America alone each year, and that this number is growing significantly. If the abduction growth rate remains the same over the next ten years, we will have more defenseless American children criminally abducted abroad and wrongfully detained than can fill a professional football stadium. And that is absurd!"

Over the past year, the I CARE Foundation has worked diligently at understanding many issues surrounding how our nation's children get abducted. Clearly, one of the major ways this happens is when a parent has a U.S. passport or more importantly, duel citizenship from the United States and another country. When this occurs - because that person is an American, under present policy, we can not place them on a screening list even if they are considered to be a high-risk child abductor.  

Clearly, this must be changed! The I CARE Foundation has been and will continue to be committed to this change.

To learn more about me, please visit Joel S. Walter & Associates. 

Author Peter Thomas Senese Makes Important Donation To I CARE Foundation - Continues Effort To Protect Children

                                                       THE I CARE FOUNDATION 

I am pleased to share that my friend, geopolitical best-selling author, and fellow 'I CARE' Foundation board member Peter Thomas Senese has once again made a generous contribution to the not-for-profit International Child Abduction Research & Enlightnement Foundation I am proud to be a part of.  For those of you who may not be familiar with my activity this past year working on behalf of children who are either at-risk of or have been internationally abducted, the I CARE Foundation is dedicated to protecting children and their targeted families from the risks of international parental child kidnapping and child trafficking.

New York City Based Attorney
Joel Walter
As an attorney who has practiced complex law for nearly 40 years, I have found many of these cases to be nothing short of pure tragedies.  

The abuse that often occurs for both victimized child and targeted parent when a child is abducted is severe: short and long-term problems are common.  

Worse, studies have demonstrated that approxiamately 10% of the anticiapted number of internationally kidnapped children (projected from 'reported' and 'unreported' cases: See 'Crisis In America') are returned.  Tragically, some of these children will never come home: they can't. They are lost forever. 

So as a litigator with a desire to make an impact against a pandemic that most individuals are not aware of, I have become actively involved in trying to push back the tide, if you will, and make a difference for defenseless children and their parents.  

I am pleased with our effort thus far; however, there remains a lot to do.

Which requires a tremendous committment. 

Fortunately for many children here in the United States, but in reality, all over the world, there are individuals willing to make that committment. I know I am 'in'.

Peter Thomas Senese
One other person who is 'in' if you will, is child advocate Peter Thomas Senese.  Sadly, Peter knows first-hand as a parent what it is like to have a child abducted under the rules of law established by the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduciton.  How do I know this? I was the first person he turned to when this happened. 

Mr. Senese's continual financial support and dedication to children through his generous financial support of the I CARE Foundation has had a great influence on so many lives. It is with generous support such as what Peter has previously provided, what he continues to provide, and his honorable pledge for future support that the foundation, in part, has been able to create more than a few miracles.  For example, as some of you may not be aware of, legally reuniting with a child wrongfully detained in Africa, and safely creating a path to bring that child or children back home to the United States is a very difficult task. One that has not happened too often in the grave world of international child abduction. In fact, It is a rarity.  

However, the I CARE Foundation has in fact played significant roles in safely reuniting several abducted American children who were abducted to Africa this year.  Part of the foundation's ability to help these parents was due to the fact the necessary resources were in place.  I am proud to say that novelist Peter Thomas Senese played a key role, providing the resources needed to the I CARE Foundation in order to protect these children. 

Previousl, Peter Thomas Senese has donated 100% of his e-book royalites from his international thrillers including 'Chasing The Cyclone', 'The Den of the Assassin', and 'Cloning Christ' to the I CARE Foundation.  Outside of his book royalties, Peter has also made several important financial donations to the foundation.

International Parental Child Abduction could victimize as many as 125,000 American children over the next ten years.  With only 10% of these kids coming home - and a growth rate of 20% per year due to an increase in multi-cultural relationships, limited abduction prevention laws, and rare cases where an abductor is held accountable, something must be done about it. 

To learn more about International Parental Child Abduction, I am providing Part I in the Chasing Parent educational documentary film series created by Peter Thomas Senese and Florida CAPA law writer Carolyn Vlk below.  To see the full videos please click here.

About Joel Walter

Upon graduation from law school forty years ago, Mr. Walter was hired as a staff attorney by The Legal Aid Society of New York(”LAS”) in their Criminal Defense Division. At the LAS, he represented defendants from arraignment through plea or trial. The LAS promoted Mr. Walter, becoming a Federal Defender for complex cases heard before the Eastern District of New York. Mr. Walter was then promoted as a supervising attorney teaching newly hired LAS attorneys during a six week orientation program designed to provide them with the complex issues pertaining to client representation in Court. Mr. Walter was later promoted as the Attorney-Charge of the LAS’ Criminal Court Office the Bronx, New York, where he supervised between 30-35 lawyers, investigators and all support staff.
Mr. Walter left the LAS and entered private practice in Brooklyn,New York.. His main areas of practice have been in State and Federal criminal law as well as family law with an emphasis in contested custody issues. Joel has represented thousands of clients and has tried hundreds of cases to verdict in State and Federal Courts in and outside New York.
Mr Walter's major skill sets are in the areas of negotiation and trial work in the Criminal and Family Law arenas.
  • Clark University, Worcester, Mass, B.A in History 1967
  • SUNY Buffalo Law School, Juris Doctor in Law 1970
Bar Admissions:
  • Appellate Division, First Department of New York
  • The four Federal District Courts of New York (Southern, Eastern, Northern and Western)
  • The Federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • New York Criminal Bar Association
  • New York County Lawyers Association (member of the Criminal Law and Family Law sections)
  • The Brooklyn Bar Association
  • Board of Director: I CARE Foundation

Click here to contact New York Attorney Joel Walter.

Disclaimer: The content contained on this publicaton does not constitute legal advice of any kind. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

New York Attorney Joel Walter: I CARE Foundation Continues Effort To Recruit Attorneys To Join U.S. Department of State's 'Hague Convention Attorney Network'

I CARE Foundation Continues Recruitment Campaign: The U.S. Department of State Seeks Attorneys to Join The 'Hague Convention Attorney Network'

The I CARE Foundation continues its effort to assist The Department of State's Office of Children's Issues recruit lawyers interested in participating and assisting parents involved in international family law and child abduction cases to join the "Hague Convention Attorney Network". The Department of State's attorney network offers attorneys the opportunity to assist a child who has been abducted, but also offers a mentor program where lawyers with limited experience in the growing field of international family law can be mentored by some of the most skilled international family law attorneys in the nation. According to the I CARE Foundation, the surging growtih in the number of international child abductions and prevention cases in the United States and abroad has created a substantial need for more trained attorneys in the United States who are familiar with international family law.

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Chasing The Cyclone, Peter Thomas Senese, GAO, Joel Walter, Patricia Lee, Eric Kalmus, No fly list, international parental child abduction prevention, carolyn vlk
Peter Thomas Senese' CHASING THE CYCLONE
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, an 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. 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 you may gain by participating in the Department of State's attorney network is priceless. And for all lawyers, but particularly young lawyers starting out in their career, becoming an expert in an area is critical. As international abductions continue to rise to unthinkable numbers, there is a great need for skilled lawyers. How can an attorney gain this much needed experience? By participating in the "Hague Convention Attorney Network."
Unquestionably, international family law and the need for skilled and educated 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. Furthermore, the number of incoming cases originating from a foreign country to the United States has also increased at rates similar to outbound cases.
The anticipated case load does not include or forecast litigation involving international child abduction prevention litigation. I CARE Foundation director Peter Thomas Senese 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 and growing. Unquestionably, this is a growing field of law and there appears to be a shortage of qualified attorneys practicing in this arena I think primarily because society as a whole does not realize their is a severe epidemic before us."
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 and a member 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. My experience in taking these cases has been humbling, to say the least, as I have seen the very best of my profession, which is too often the object of jokes and derision. I would encourage any attorney to join the Attorney Network.”
If you are a lawyer interested in finding out more about the Hague Convention Attorney Network, visit and click “For Attorneys & Judges,” or write to HagueConventionAttorneyNetwork(at)state(dot)gov. To learn more about international parental child abduction please visit To receive an application to join the Attorney Network, please visit

Disclaimer: The content contained on this publicaton does not constitute legal advice of any kind. 

Nearly A Year Ago, I Joined The Board of Directors Of The I CARE Foundation: Since That Time The Foundation Has Helped Bring Home Many Children Who Were Internationally Kidnapped

It has been nearly a year since I joined the I CARE Foundation's Board of Directors. It has been a very good year as the foundation has helped bring home many children of abduction. However, there is so much more to be done!

Highly Respected New York Attorney Joel Walter Named To          The I CARE Foundation Board Of Directors

The I CARE Foundation is pleased to announce that Highly Respected Veteran Lawyer Joel Walter has been named to the Foundation's Board of Directors. Mr. Walter is a highly respected litigator with over 35 years of experience. Joel Walter's law practice primarily is in the United States federal courts, where he focuses on complex domestic and family law matters along with criminal matters.

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New York Lawyer Joel S. Walter
Quote startWhen I was forced to Chase The Cyclone of international child abduction, Joel Walter was the first lawyer I turned to ... I CARE Foundation Director Peter Thomas SeneseQuote end
New York, NY (PRWEB) November 26, 2011
The International Child Abduction Research and Enlightenment Foundation (I CARE Foundation) is pleased to announce that Mr.Joel Walter, a New York Attorney with forty years of litigation experience focused in complex family law and criminal matters has been named to the Foundation's Board of Directors.
Mr. Walter represents clients in New York State courts and Federal courts within and outside New York. Upon graduation from law school in 1970, Mr. Walter was hired as a staff attorney by the New York City Legal Aid Society, rising to Attorney –In- Charge of the Society’s Bronx Criminal Court Office supervising about 35 attorneys before entering private practice. He has represented thousands of clients and has had hundreds of trials to completion. His major skill sets are in the areas of negotiation and trial work in the criminal and family law arenas.
I CARE Foundation Director Carolyn Vlk, who wrote the Florida Child Abduction Prevention Act commented, "The Foundation is extremely pleased to have Joel join us in our goals to fulfill our mission of creating and executing a diverse platform of goals that will inevitably stop a great number of child abductions from occurring in our nation and abroad. His vast experience as a highly respected and skilled litigator who has been a defender of children for a very long time will help the Foundation and the children and their parents we hope to serve."
Mr. Walter said,“ The legal complexities involved in either trying to prevent a child from being internationally abducted or getting the child returned under either the Hague Convention or foreign jurisdiction law in non-Hague signatory nations is daunting. Clearly, the number of these cases are massively underreported due to a lack of research and deep understanding into the issues at hand”. Walter added that ,"Tragically, as many parent-victims of international parental child abduction realize, the parent-victim is usually unaware that the abduction is about to occur until the criminal act occurs. With the correct legal strategy, it is possible for a parent to reunite with the child. This work involves experience in criminal and family law. It is my hope to bring the experience I have gained over the past 40 years practicing in both the family law and criminal law arena to the Foundation, as we continue to conduct various research, while helping build attorney networks that could assist targeted children and parents. At the end of the day, it is our hope to raise the bar on social and judicial education so that we will see a dramatic reduction in these types of cases. I am very committed to that, as I am honored to become a Director of the I CARE Foundation."
The Hague Convention on The Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction comes into play so long as the country where the child was abducted from and to are both Hague signatory states.
The Law Offices of Joel Walter provides a team of highly experienced counsel familiar with the legal complexities of international parental child abduction, professionals who practice regularly in state and federal court, intricate and thorough legal strategies based upon optimizing various domestic and international laws, professional relationships with a diverse group of international family lawyers capable of acting immediately to ensure the return of the abducted child, strategies and representation that will assist you in preventing an international child abduction from occurring, and assistance in enrolling your child in various federal child abduction prevention programs and the representation and ability to initiate Hague Convention proceedings.
Mr. Walter is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the New York Criminal Bar Association, the New York County Lawyers’ Association (criminal and family law sections),a Director of the International Child Abduction Research and Enlightenment ( I CARE) Foundation, and an attorney on the State Department’s "Hague Convention Attorney Network".
Peter Thomas Senese, a Director of the I CARE Foundation added, "It is a great accomplishment to have a person such as Joel Walter join the foundation's Board of Directors. Mr. Walter is a very intelligent litigator who thinks is paradines: something that is extremely useful when dealing with complex cases involving either the prevention or attempted reunification of parent and child. Mr. Walter is honest, considerate, and dedicated. His years of extraordinary legal experience add a very unique presence to our board. The Foundation is very fortunate to have Joel Walter join our team. And on a personal level, when I was forced to Chase The Cyclone of international child abduction, Joel Walter was the first lawyer I turned to."

Disclaimer: The content contained on this publicaton does not constitute legal advice of any kind.