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Is a Fugitive's Privacy More Important Than Finding Abducted Children?

Parental abduction has become a prevalent problem for families across the nation and a major concern for family law advocates. International parental abduction has been a significant focus of many discussions and the Hague Convention was created to assist in locating and returning children illegally removed from their country of residence. Tracing a child amongst the United States can be as complicated as tracing them internationally, so when any information about the child's whereabouts is extremely important in child custody cases involving abduction.

Although parents who abduct their children tend to live lives of secrecy in order to remain hidden, many of them for one reason or another surprisingly continue to honestly file tax returns. In a number of missing children situations, the parent claimed the child as a dependant on their tax returns filed with the Internal Revenue Service, listing the child's social security number as well as a current address. Parents who have been determined abductors become federal fugitives, and federal fugitive laws protect the privacy of their taxpayer information preventing the I.R.S. from releasing the vital information.

Where the parent has been charged with a federal crime for abduction, a judge has the authority to request the release of information from the I.R.S. However, most parental abduction cases are handled through state court processes and state and local judges do not have similar authority. A Treasury Department study based on social security numbers of 1,700 missing children, released in 2007, found that in 1/3 of the cases the child's social security number had in fact been listed on tax returns along with a current address.

Source: The New York Times "I.R.S. Sits on Data Pointing to Missing Children" David Kocieniewski 11/12/10

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