If a child custody dispute heats up, a parent often ends up making a hasty decision and, as a result, the parent ends up on the wrong side of the law. Clarksville, Tennessee, residents may have come across a recent news report about one such child custody dispute, which involved a 4-year-old boy with American and Chinese citizenship, an American father, a Chinese mother, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a United Airlines flight en route to Beijing that returned to the U.S. five hours after takeoff.
The possible attempt at an international abduction started when the mother of the child sent an email to her ex-husband saying that her grandmother in China was terminally ill and, therefore, she and the couple's son were going to fly to China. The father responded to the email saying that the child could not go because he had to attend school. The mother replied that she had already booked tickets and that they were leaving for China immediately. That sparked suspicion and the father notified local authorities, who, in turn, requested help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The FBI checked the parents' child custody arrangement and discovered that the couple had joint custody of the child and neither parent could take the child out of the country without the other parent's consent. Based on this finding, agents requested United Airlines to recall the flight to the United States. According to reports, the flight was still over North America when the pilots turned the airplane around. Upon return, the mother was taken into custody and the child was returned to his father. Reportedly, the mother was arrested for a probable international abduction.
The child's parents got married in 2007 and he was born in 2010. Three years later, in 2013, his parents divorced, with both parents sharing legal custody. Interestingly, the child is a dual citizen of the United States and China. Investigations after the mother's arrest revealed that although she had told the father that her decision to travel to China was last minute and that she had purchased tickets only a day prior to departure, her travel documents clearly indicated that she had booked one-way tickets for herself and her son about one week before the flight date.
Source: The Washington Post, "Plane turns back to Dulles so FBI can arrest mom in parental kidnapping case," Victoria St. Martin, Sept. 5, 2014