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2015 International Parents’ Conference & Embassy Walk

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avatar for Alissa Zagaris

Alissa Zagaris

I STAND Parent Network
Founding Member/ Parental Advocate
My son Leo was wrongfully retained in Greece by his father after summer visitation in 2011 against a mutually agreed upon divorce and custodial decree allowing international visitation, that was filed in Indiana (2009). My ex believed that my lack of knowledge and lack of financial means would give him the ability to successfully kidnap our American born permanent resident 10 year old son. Nikos Zagaris , the taking parent believed his family's political status and the access to his inheritance gave him the right to do as he pleased. He was wrong. Nikos furthered his power position by placing the top English speaking Hague attorneys in Greece on retainer ( fortunately for him, the rest already represented other members of his family that I had implicated on my Hague application . Unrelated reasons yet still a blocker for my use. He saved some money there) I was forced to use a Hague rep in Greece (which is only obligated to uphold the treaty and is not a representative of the parent, I had no contact or communication with her). This left me 100% dependent on the DoS ,OCI. They were my only link to Greece. It took me 18 months for the civil process to exhaust itself before the FBI became officially involved and warrants were issued. I give our Dept of Justice the greatest credit for the return of my little boy, Yet, I attribute the largest part of my success to social media and to the connections I have made & knowledge gained by other parents dealing with ICA. I was dubbed the "Facebook Mom" during my son's retention. Social media allowed me to reach out in a way that broke all language barriers and connected me to the right people to successfully learn how to navigate through the Hague process, win and get my son's return enforced. In the end I managed to get my enforcement through a coordinated effort from the DOS, DOJ, US Embassy Athens and Greece's Ministry of Justice. Since our return home (March of 2013) I have turned my focus to helping my friends. Most of which are still fighting for their children worldwide. I have directed my influence as a successful parent to speak out and raise awareness to this growing pandemic. I have joined with other parents and organizations to educate Congress about ways to protect our children. And I have co created I STAND with my incredibly varied and proactive fellow parents. I have no doubt together we will change this broken system. And together is exactly how we will get it done.