Billy Hanson (Age 9)
Missing: Billy Hanson (Age 9)

About a month and a half ago I wrote about parental kidnappings and Pennsylvania’s statute designed to prevent such situations.  Based on numerous reports going back to mid-September, it unfortunately appears that such a situation is occurring right now out of Seattle, Washington.

Around September 12th, Seattle area newspaper blogs and other forums began reporting about a situation involving a nine year old boy and his biological father. Billy Hanson had been visiting his father, Jeffrey Hanson, in the Seattle area during August and was scheduled to return to his mother in Pennsylvania on a September 4th flight. After never getting on the plane, his mother, Joanna Hanson, contacted the authorities and about a week later the FBI issued a federal warrant for his arrest on the charge of international parental kidnapping.

Jeffrey Hanson and his son left a marina in Seattle on or about August 30th and there are reports that they were going to a nearby island, however, at this point and based on other information, the authorities believe he may be trying to cross the Pacific to Tahiti, Hawaii, or travel south to Mexico. Jeffrey Hanson is apparently a competent open sea sailor and his sailboat, “Draco,” is capable of handling such voyages.

It is important to note a fact and allegation relayed in the article by Graham Johnson: (fact) the FBI was not brought into the case until about September 10th, six days after Billy was due to return to Pennsylvania, but too late to issue an Amber Alert, and; (allegation) that a family friend’s concerns about Jeffrey Hanson taking the boy to Tahiti were reported to police and the FBI weeks in advance of the abduction, but were not taken seriously.

Without any information as to whether a Pennsylvania custody order applies to this case, it is difficult to speculate whether the Pennsylvania statute on parental abduction would have served any purpose. More importantly is that at this time the coverage on this case is growing and will hopefully result in Billy Hanson being returned to his mother in Pennsylvania.


Billy Hanson was found with his father on a small atoll in the South Pacific earlier this week. Niue is a small island about 1,500 miles north-east of New Zealand, which may be better described as The Middle of the South Pacific. He was about 7,000 miles from home. The FBI has his father, Jeffrey Hanson, in custody where he will face charges on international parental kidnapping. This is an incredible example of international law enforcement collaborating to find this child and ensure he was safely returned to his mother and the best possible outcome for this type of situation. It will be interesting to see how the prosecution of Jeffrey Hanson is handled.


Aaron Weems is an attorney and editor of the Pennsylvania Family Law Blog. Aaron is a partner in Fox Rothschild’s Blue Bell, Pennsylvania office and practices throughout the greater Philadelphia region. Aaron can be reached at 610-397-7989;, and on Twitter @AaronWeemsAtty.