Wendy Hickey Law

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Things Concerning Use of Assets

  • Check your bank accounts.

    1. Go to or telephone the banks where any joint funds are on deposit and determine if your spouse has withdrawn funds; and if so, how much.

    2. You should make this inquiry before you go to court. If withdrawals have been made without notice to you, this may signal that your spouse is getting ready to leave and needs cash for that purpose.

  • You also can ask the bank if your spouse has any individual accounts and, if so, whether there have been any recent withdrawals. If your name is not on these separate accounts or if the bank does not cooperate because it has to follow certain laws, subpoena the records into a deposition or a court hearing.

  • If you have joint bank accounts,

    1. Consider closing all joint bank accounts and joint bank boxes--but understand leaving all or some of these assets in place might represent a source of information if your spouse tries to withdraw or transfer money to an account in another bank.
    2. In any event, do not take out the funds as cash. You may have to account for every penny. The best way to document how you use the money is by using checks and getting receipts. In this way, if your spouse claims you hid or misspent money, you will have documents to refute that claim.

  • If you have joint credit cards,

    1. Call the credit card companies and ask them to immediately advise the details of all recent charges on the cards. This can provide crucial information about airline tickets or other purchases, which then might indicate where your child is being taken or where your spouse and child are located. You must act immediately to put that information to good use.
    2. If you are not on these accounts and if the credit card company will not cooperate because it has to follow certain laws, subpoena the records into a deposition or to a court hearing.

  • Consider not canceling charge accounts--these accounts often are a fruitful source of information about what your spouse is charging and where. That information may help focus the search for your spouse and child. Indeed, you may want to renew those credit cards on the possible chance that later on your spouse may need to use the card. Then that might provide you with a valuable, if not your only, lead.

  • Money considerations for lawyer fees.

    1. Put aside or begin to raise enough money from relatives and friends so you will be able to hire a lawyer who is experienced in this kind of case. You also may need enough money to hire another lawyer in a second state or country. Your retainer can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $25,000, depending on the circumstances.

    2. Kidnapping cases are usually among the most difficult. Work on these cases substantially interferes with a lawyer's other previously scheduled matters. These cases also can involve substantial out-of-pocket expenses for such things as civil arrest teams.

  • Beyond the emotional expense, a kidnapping case also can be very expensive in terms of out-of-pocket costs. If at all possible, you should go to the other jurisdiction for the court hearing. Even if you say nothing or if the judge decides no evidence is needed from you, you will be there to demonstrate that you do not have "horns or a tail" and that you are ready, willing, and able to personally chaperon your child back to his or her habitual residence. (1)

  • Your lawyer can advise you if there is any chance of obtaining a court order requiring the kidnapping parent to pay your costs and attorney's fees. You will have to assess the likelihood of collecting any such award because you will be responsible for paying the lawyer in the first place.

  • Footnote

    1. For example, if you have to come from another country to the United States, the following costs might be reasonably incurred:

    1. Air Fare: Round trip between Santiago, Chile, and Los Angeles, California, is about $1,300; between Budapest, Hungary, and Boston, Massachusetts, is about $1,000.
    2. Rental Car: $450 to $500 a week plus gas and insurance.
    3. Hotel Room: $60 to $300 a night depending on where you are staying and when and how many people are going to be in the room (e.g., you and two children).
    4. Meals: $50 or more per person per day. For an adult and three children, this is about $150 a day. For a two-week stay, this can cost over $2,000.
    5. Translation of Documents: $30 for 100 words plus the services of the translator at the trial, if needed. This cost can be anywhere from $300 to $10,000.
    6. Telephone: For voice calls and fax transmissions, this can cost $50 to $80 an hour depending on where the calls are going to and coming from. For 20 hours of telephone time, it could cost $2,400.
    7. Reproduction of Documents: If you have to copy 2,000 pages at an average cost of $0.25 per page, this will cost $500.
    8. Certification or Exemplification of Court Documents: This can cost $10 to $200 depending on the court and the number of pages involved.
    9. Attorney's Fees: (1) An attorney in the foreign country probably will be needed in order to provide an affidavit of the law of that country as well as to file any needed papers, obtain documents, and facilitate the original filing of papers in a U.S. court, and to assist in preparing any needed affidavits. This cost can be anywhere from $2,500 to $15,000 depending on what is needed. (2) An attorney in the state in which you file the action will be needed. This cost again will depend upon what is done and the time the case takes. One can estimate the cost to be at least $1,500 to $30,000.
    10. Miscellaneous: You should add up the above figures and add another twenty percent to cover the miscellaneous items that will occur.
    11. Total: As if it is not enough that you are worried about your child, when faced with the possibility of these kinds of costs, you can despair. If the judge holds a summary hearing and immediately orders the child back to the habitual residence, the costs will be on the low side of the estimate.