International child custody cases are fairly uncommon, but when they do occur, they tend to be extremely complex. As more adults find it easier to travel abroad and settle down in a new country, more families also find themselves in legal trouble if a marriage ends in divorce. If you’re currently dealing with a child custody battle and you don’t reside in the same country as your former spouse or children, you’ll definitely want to speak with a child custody lawyer as soon as possible.
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
In 1980, the United States adopted the Hague Convention treaty on child custody and abduction laws. This is an international treaty that has been accepted widely across the globe. It primarily focuses on child abduction laws — and unfortunately, these laws can become relevant during international child custody disputes. This is because in the United States, along with many other countries, parents can actually be guilty of abducting their own children if they do not possess full physical custody and they travel with their children without getting permission from the custodial parent.
The Hague Convention doesn’t explicitly outline custody rights for parents who are separating or divorced, but it does provide protection when one noncustodial parent leaves the country with the children and is not authorized to do so. In these cases, the custodial parent may file a petition for a violation of custody rights in their local court system and they must ask the court to invoke the guidelines created by the Hague Convention.
It’s important to note that these protections only apply in countries that have adopted the Hague Convention. If the noncustodial parent flees to another country that has not adopted the Hague Convention rules, the custodial parent might have very limited options available for recovering their children.
It’s more common these days for parents to try to work out international custody cases amicably. This may result in an international relocation case, where a custodial parent petitions the U.S. court system to relocate to another country with their child. As with all other custody cases, the U.S. court system will examine whether or not this move will be in the best interest of the child. The court will typically look at factors such as the ability of the noncustodial parent to visit the child in their new country, the customs and practices in the new country and whether the child is already familiar with them, and the ability of the custodial parent to provide a stable home in the new country.
This court process only applies when parents separate or divorce and currently legally reside in the United States. If the parents are residing in another country at the time of their separation or divorce, they will have to defer to the laws in that country.
As with all custody cases, it’s often best to discuss your situation with a child custody attorney in Tampa, FL in person. Each case is unique and it’s important to know what your rights and responsibilities are to your children.
Thanks to The McKinney Law Group for their insight into family law and international custody laws.