Child Custody: International Disputes

Family law is a routinely fraught with strong emotions. Familial conflicts are especially stressful, after all, and it makes sense that they would inspire particular concern and worry. This is perhaps especially true when children are involved. Most of us want what is best for our children and to know they are safe. Child custody disputes, particularly those that stretch across international boundaries, are exceptionally complex processes that require the prompt and dedicated attention of an experienced family law attorney.

International Disputes and the Hague Convention
Implemented in 1980, the Hague Convention was designed to help reunite children and parents when children were unlawfully removed from their country of origin. If one spouse decided to take their children and move to another country just to spite the other parent, for example, and therefore prevented said parent from building a relationship with their child, then the Hague Convention contains rules that participating countries should abide by in these situations. There are currently 96 nations participating in the Hague Convention.

Note that the Hague Convention is not an excuse for a family court hearing regarding child custody, but instead an avenue by which parents are given the chance to have their case heard even if their child has been unlawfully relocated. In the event that one of the countries involved is not part of the Hague Convention, it is possible that the United States State Department and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act could be of use in located and returning your children.

When is it illegal to relocate a child internationally?
When removing the child would violate the custody rights granted to the parent in their country of residence (and the child’s former country of residence), the relocation is unlawful. In general, both parents must consent to the relocation of the child before that move takes place. If the country to which the child is moved participates in the Hague Convention, then it is expected the child will be expeditiously returned as long as the courts deem it appropriate.

There are a few exceptions to the above information. If the child in question is old enough to make such decisions, then they, themselves, might be able to object to returning to their former country of residence. If a year or longer has passed since the child was moved, then it is possible the courts might decide the child is now settled and it would harmful to uproot them. Finally, if returning the child would place them in grave risk of psychological or physical harm or the country from which they were removed is known to violate human rights, then the courts in the child’s new country might very well refuse to return them.

Are you facing an international custody dispute? It is important that you take action and reach out to an experienced family law attorney immediately. Any delay could negatively impact your case. At Abear Law Offices, our experienced legal team has the skills you need to give you the best chance possible. Contact us today for more information!