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Syria: Family Law

SYRIA AND INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION: US Department of State's Office of Children's Issues Responds to International Parental Abduction Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations, US Senate (June 26, 2003)


Question. If an American child is determined to be at risk of being abducted to Syria, another country that refuses to return abducted American children and a State Department-designated "state sponsor of international terrorism," what safeguards would you recommend that a U.S. Family Law Court implement to protect this American child?

Answer. State Department personnel are prohibited from discussing cases with judges or other court officials. Any conversations we have about a child custody case would be with the parents and/or their attorneys. In any custody case where a parent was concerned about an abduction, we would likely recommend that the parent seek appropriate custody and, other orders to restrain the travel of the child. If the case involved a dual national child, we would likely recommend that a copy of the subsequent court order be sent to the appropriate foreign embassy, though we would caution that passport issuances by that embassy are governed by the laws of its own government. We would also recommend that a copy of the court order be sent to airline companies, which service the possible destination country.

Finally, and irrespective of any court activity, we would strongly recommend to any parents fearing abduction of their U.S. citizen children that they enter their children's names in the Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP).

Question. The Department of State Web site states that "one important factor in obtaining custody in Syria is whether the Syrian parent has registered either the marriage or the child's birth with Syrian authorities." What can the Department of State do to assist parents in obtaining this information? Is CA willing to add to this Web page the fact that even if the child has not been registered at the time of inquire, the Syrian parent can register the child at any time thereafter, and obtain a Syrian passport for the child, without notice to the other parent? 

Answer. The Department of State can attempt to verify whether a marriage or a child's birth has been registered with Syrian authorities. The parent would need to provide us with specific information, such as the child's full name, including the father's complete family name and a date of marriage and where the marriage ceremony was performed. Syrian authorities may decline to provide us with this verification, but we are willing to try on behalf of an American citizen.

We welcome your suggestion that we update the country flyer on Syria concerning child registration and passport issuance to reflect the fact that a Syrian parent can register the child at any time to obtain a Syrian passport for the child, without notice to the other parent. We will confirm that this is the case in Syria, and if so, will add that information to the flyer. 

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