Protection of Minors needed

| 06/11/2008

A casual search on the worldwide web confirms that most developed countries require certain basic travel documents for travel with minors.

In each of these countries (the United States, Canada, all Central and South American countries, indeed in the global majority!) any child under the age of 18 departing from those countries with only one parent, a guardian, grandparents or other adults, must have written and notarized permission from both birth parents or legal guardians to be able to pass through their home country’s´ immigration controls and most certainly do require such written and notarized permission to enter many countries. These conditions have now also been extended even on cruise ships’ shore excursions.

In the Caymanian context, with a mostly trustworthy population, one might possibly ask out loud, “Why should this be necessary?” Good question. My answer, as is the answer accepted worldwide and on which foundation these rules and regulations are in force, is simply to halt international child abduction, runaways and the transport of children involved in child-custody disputes.

It is worthy of note that the Hague Convention on children’s rights has been receiving enhanced awareness in recent times due to an increase in child abductions and child- custody disputes, and as of July 2001, the Hague treaty is in force between the United States and 50 other countries. Indeed, in Mexico (sadly a country well known for child abductions and child flight) Mexican law is very strict and requires that if only one parent or non-custodial adult(s) is accompanying a minor under the age of 18 into Mexico, he/she must bear a notarized “Permission to Travel Letter” from the child’s other parent(s) or guardian(s) granting permission to enter Mexico with the child, including the dates of travel, the accompanying adult’s name, contact information, and a notarized signature. In Brazil, the requirement is even stiffer. They require a notarized original copy of the “Permission to Travel Letter” before even accepting a visa application for minors.

Most airlines also now follow this protocol. The US Airways website for example confirms that they enforce this during thecheck-in process with the posted rule: “If adult passengers do not have the proper documents, as defined by the US Department of State guidelines, boarding is denied in order to comply with international regulations and the foreign immigration process.”

Sadly, there are too many horror stories of marriages gone wrong where one spouse feels somehow obligated to use the children of the marriage as pure “pawns”. One does not have to look too far to discover these types of sad cases. In 2006, a mother kidnapped a 3-year-old girl and illegally took her via plane to Mexico. The father has yet to see his daughter since! The father exercised his legal rights to the extent of filing a lawsuit in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, against Continental Airlines for negligence, breach of contract and interference with custodian rights. The child’s mother, who remains at large in Mexico, has even been charged in the US with a felony kidnapping.

But has that ensured that the mother returns? No, it has not.

But has the father been able to enjoy a normal and meaningful relationship with his legitimate child? No, he cannot!

I write this letter, because sadly the laws in the Cayman Islands are very lax in regards to the transit of minors in the care of a single parent. I am of the firm belief that the laws need immediate strengthening so as to be in full compliance with the Hague Convention on the Rights of Children. And, it would be an easy task to implement and ensure its strict compliance by authorities at our own Owen Roberts International Airport.

Many questions arise then. Are we going to wait yet again until we have an international incident in our faces before acting? Are we going to wait until an incident happens involving child abduction and illegal transport of minor children out of these Islands by one uncaring parent, whose sole purpose is to use the children of the marriage as “pawns” before we act? Sadly, child custody disputes do occur and it is only just and proper that the due protection is given to minors not to allow one single parent the possibility of surreptitiously taking minor children, under the age of 18, out of the home countries jurisdiction unless such movement is known by, agreed to, and a signed and notarized original letter is able to be produced at the airline counters here in Grand Cayman (and as is required in most other countries) signed by the other parent not accompanying the minor or the family.

I am therefore appealing, as a matter of national importance and as a matter of being pro-active in our actions towards the compliance with the Hague Convention for the protection of minors that we institute with immediate effect rules and regulations which would at a minimum require any parent, legal guardian or other traveling adult that is departing the Cayman Islands with a minor child (i.e. any child under the age of 18 years) to have in their possession a signed, original and notarized letter of permission before being allowed to depart our island or be processed through Immigration. Any breach would result in the airline involved being liable for negligence and child endangerment.

 

 

 

 

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Comments (7)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The U.S. has special exceptions for a single parent to obtain a passport for a minor child

    when the signature of the other parent is not available, as in the case of death of the

    other parent or the relinquishment of parental rights wherein the single parent has sole

    legal custody.  A third exception is when only the child’s mother is listed on the child’s

    birth certificate.  The law might vary from state to state, however in the state of Texas, a

    father of a child born out of wedlock has until the child reaches the age of 5 to establish

    paternity and the rights that correspond with same.   "As a new grandmother… " might like

    the law here a bit better, the mother of a child of 5 or older whose father did not step forward and

    assert his parental rights can still sue for support and the father would have to pay regardless

    of whether or not he is granted parental rights.  A non custodial parent  whose parental

    rights are established and intact can block the issuance of a passport if they take the appropriate

    steps  (CPIAP) with the State Department.  I agree with ""new grandmother" 100% in that there

    are no excuses not to be careful, however life must go on, and fortunately the law gives some

    protection to women and children fathered by men who are unable or unwilling to be

    responsible.  And for those that do need time to come around, a year might not be enough time.

     

     

     

  2. Ebanks the Plumber says:

    Not sure where George got his information from, or maybe changes in laws have been effected in the past year, but both my children traveled with one (or no) parent to and from the USA and UK while under 16 with no documentation other than the appropriate passport.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dear moderator,

    Please give Mr Ebanks my email address so that he can contact me if he wishes.I firmly agree with his concerns, and would love to help him lobby for legislation to update the custody and maintainance legislation.

    CNS: email me at nickywatson@caymannewsservice.com

  4. Anonymous says:

    Fathers want enhanced rights and protections to have continued relationships with their children.  Sadly many of these same fathers think that their child support obligation is optional and use their own children as pawns in ongoing litigation.  The Cayman Islands has no mechanism other than the Court System which is very expensive to enforce child support.  Fathers know how to play the system and delay any such enforcement by claiming to be poor when they are not.  Yet, the Court still allows fathers visitation and bows to their ongoing litigation even though they are using their own children as pawns.  If a man can pay legal costs, he can pay child support.  Just because a man gets a woman pregnant does not make him a true father.  Fathers who are truly fathers in every sense of the word do not use their children as pawns, build a relationship with their children and fulfill all of their duties including paying child support.  If a man does none or only some of these things than he is not truly a father in the true sense of a word. 

  5. Anonymous says:

    Although this is a very valid argument and needs to be reviewed for all the reasons mentioned above, I would like to point out that at this time the Cayman Immigration Law states that a child born to a couple out of wedlock (prior to the birth of the child), if that child is born to a non-caymanian, then that child does not have automatic right of a Caymanian EVEN if the child is born to a Caymanian Father.  This is not the case if the mother is Caymanian. 

    Surely this very biased rule is out of place in our society and needs to be reviewed especially in light of issues such as the ones brought by Mr Ebanks.  Fathers need to know that they have rights as parents in Cayman, no matter who they chose to mother their children, their role should not be belittled and the children to Caymanian Fathers and non-cayman mothers should not feel any less Caymanian than other Caymanian children.

    • Anonymous says:

      As a new grandmother, I was shocked to learn how the laws were weighted FOR the father, in an unwed marraige,in 2008. If an unwed mother does not petion the court within 12 months of the  baby’s birth, the judge can and often does, tell the mother sorry, too late. Check the law, its right there.  Many of these young girls are still hoping for a amicable agreement at this time hoping for the father to "step up" and fall in love with the mommy and baby and if they can string the girls on long enough, the law tips to the fathers advantage. So, yes George, the law does need updating for both sides, and quickly as I have seen the pressure put upon my daughter to avoid legal recourse for no more than a couple of hundred dollars a month. She was chastised for not "trusting" the fathers family to do the right thing, and how dare she embarrass them in court, etc. Finally, after much pressure from me, her mother, she reluctantly went to at least get a 200 bucks a month judgement. I certainly think that these folks MUST think about the consequences of their propogation, and look down the road to what can happen. Come on, if you bear a child out of wedlock, you must understand that you stand outside the law, and have put yourself in a mess. I’ve seen it first hand, and recomment to no one. In THIS day and age , there is no reason NOT to practice proper birth control. I know you, I know your age and sorry to say it because it makes us seem ancient, but we were always VERY careful in those days, because we we terrified to go home and face the consequences at home, and socially. Good food for thought!

    • Anonymous says:

      It is only common sense that the child of a Cayman mother would automatically get status – there is straight forward evidence that the child is of Caymanian Heritage.

      The child does however have the right to Caymanian status as soon as the paternity test proves the child’s father is in fact Caymanian.

      This was put in place so that women from other countries could not pick a man’s name out of the phone book and claim it was their baby’s father, assuming this would grant them the right to stay in Cayman with their child who would then get status.

      In fact even if a mother has an illegitimate child of Cayman status, as the father has been proven to be Caymanian, that does not give the mother the right to stay with her child.

      There is a case now I am aware of which is likely to be the beginning of many that the mother is being forced to leave the Island without her Caymanian child due to Immigration Roll Over Laws.

      The laws need to be in the fairness of the child, not the mother, not the father, but the child.  Losing either parent isn’t good for any child, but losing one because a law forced a parent to abandon their child is even worse.  I cannot see how this is in any way in the best interest of a Caymanian child.