Overview of International Issues in Family Law

Act Quickly to Protect Your Rights in an International Family Law Case

The term “family law” covers a broad array of issues that could come up including custody of children, adoptions, property division, support payments to former spouses or for children, and divorce. The problems that come up can be complicated and it only gets more difficult when more than one legal system is involved. If you do not take the right steps quickly in an international family law case, you could be at a serious disadvantage throughout the proceeding.

international embassy building

Consult with an Experienced International Family Law Lawyer

The first thing that should be done, as in any other case, is promptly retain a lawyer with experience handling international family law matters or matters with international family law implications. Your lawyer should be able to navigate you through the complex process and add stability to what may be a confusing and unstable situation. The immediate next step is usually coordinating with a lawyer in the other country. For example, an international divorce case may result from one spouse filing for divorce in England or Germany simultaneously while the other has filed in Virginia or the District of Columbia. You should be represented in both countries as soon as possible and make sure your international divorce attorneys are coordinating their efforts.

Your Outcome Will Depend Many Factors Including Jurisdiction and the Family Law Issue at Hand

What happens after that depends on whether the case involves international custody, international divorce, or issues related to that such as parental kidnapping, discovering hidden assets, or establishing your rights of access to a child that has been removed to or from the United States. Whether a country is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction may dictate what relief you have available to you in an international custody dispute. Additional parties, such as the U.S. Department of State, will likely be involved too. In an international divorce case, there may be structured channels to go through based on international law, but the outcome very well could depend on what your state laws dictate should happen in international family law cases. Though these cases follow the individuals wherever they may be in the world, the process for resolution of an international family law matter varies depending on the type of issue and where you live.

One of the biggest issues in international family law cases, whether they are international custody, or international divorce, is which country has jurisdiction to hear the case. The outcome of jurisdictional disputes can sometimes tip the scales for the outcome of the entire case in favor of the party who prevails. Being able to negotiate and contest the case in your home jurisdiction can be a significant advantage. In international custody cases, if a country is a signatory to the Hague Convention, there should be a formal tribunal that decides which country’s courts will hear the case. However, in an international divorce case, it could be a matter of getting one country’s courts to defer to the other country. This could be based on a variety of factors such as where witnesses are, where evidence is or assets are located, and sometimes which system can get the case done sooner.

International family law involves navigating complicated legal issues in complex legal systems. Contact an experienced international family law lawyer to protect your rights.

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