Keeping Them Safe

This Piece, in today’s Irish Independent, brought back memories of when my own children were much younger, and my ex made a kidnap threat. As he’s a narcissist, co-parenting was impossible – he had no interest in the children except when they could get him attention of any kind. When I left him, he viewed my children as pawns in what he viewed as – and therefore made into – a war.

When the threat to kidnap my eldest came about, I was paralysed with fear. That’s exactly what he wanted, of course. The goal of terrorism is, after all, to terrorise. I learnt a number of things from the experience, however, which I used to empower myself, and safeguard my children.

Please bear in mind that some of the information here may only apply in this jurisdiction (The Republic of Ireland), so check if there are similar rules where you live.

One of the mistakes we make is to tell ourselves that the fathers of our children will never treat us badly; or that that the love we have will never sour; or that they will never use the children. Please don’t believe the bit of you that tells you this. You have no idea what the future holds for you, so you need to put in place as many safeguards as you can. Here’s my list:

1. If you are concerned about the possibility of your ex taking your child and removing them from the jurisdiction, notify the Gardaí. If you have proof of a credible threat (text, email, etc.) bring it with you to bolster your claim. Make note of the case number.

2. If your ex lives abroad, notify the Irish embassy where they are resident of the threat, and include the Garda case number. This provides a sense of you being reasonably concerned, rather than a bitter ex with a grudge.

3. If your ex lives in Ireland, but is a citizen of, or has links to, another country, notify the Irish embassy in those jurisdictions of the issue. Again, provide those embassies with the Garda case number. In the event that your ex travels on a passport that requires an entry visa for Ireland, this threat will be considered, should they apply for a visa to Ireland.

4. If you have more than one child, but your ex has stated an interest in only taking one (for example, if you have a son and a daughter, the ex may only express interest in one or the other), bear in mind that if the children are frequently together, it may be as easy for them to take both / all than just the one they want.

5. Let any and all relevant people know specifically who is allowed to have access to your children. A list of relevant people could include:
School Principals
School Bus Drivers
Extra Curricular Teachers

6. Your ex may not personally take the children. They may send another person (possibly a woman) to effect the snatch. Warning people to be vigilant only with regard to your ex may not be enough.

7. Bearing in mind that sometimes the unexpected happens, have a ‘safe word’ that you share with people who act in loco parentis. This is a word that they know, and you know, and that you share with someone else who may have to collect the children in an emergency. If the person who says they have your permission to collect the children cannot provide the word, your children are not to be released into their custody, and you must be contacted immediately.

8. In age-appropriate language, and taking care to minimize any possible upset to them, let your children know that only you (and other named individuals) are allowed to collect them from anywhere they might be.

9. If your child has an Irish passport, contact the passport office and have your children put on the Stop Pass List. This is a list that prevents anyone but you having an application for passports for your children granted.

10. If your child is entitled to an Irish passport, but doesn’t currently have one, sort that out immediately. If your ex won’t sign the form, you can got to Court and ask a judge to rule that it not necessary to have him sign it. Again, you will need to provide valid reasons, and evidence in support of those reasons, to the Court.

11. The Hague Convention is your friend. The Department of Justice provides a good overview of it here.

12. If your ex is domiciled in, or has residency of, a non-Hague Convention country, and a court in that country gives them any form of access and / custody in that place, that Order will not be honoured by a Court in Ireland.

13. Have a pack ready in the event that your children are taken. This pack should include several recent photographs of your children. Also include photos of them wearing hats, or dressed as the opposite sex (if they are very young). If they have long hair, include photos of them with it up, and loose (in case your ex chops off long hair to try to disguise your child/ren). Include a picture of them with their favourite toy (the one they always have with them). Also include, in a sealed zip-lock bag, a sample of their DNA. Have their personal details typed up and in the bag, too. These details should include – their names, dates of birth, height, weight (in metric and imperial), details of their favourite toy, medications, known allergies, and the languages they speak / are familiar with. Update these details regularly!

I hope this list helps as much as I hope you’ll never need it.