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International Custody & The Hague Abduction Convention

DiPietro Law Group, PLLC

With remarkable advances in communications and travel technology, the world seems to shrink in size. Today, it is common for people from different countries to meet, fall in love, and start a family. However, when marital disputes necessitate legal solutions, the different laws and values of the parties’ respective countries come into play. This can make cases of international custody and parental kidnapping challenging to manage for the various judicial systems of the world.

International Custody Disputes & Parental Kidnapping

When the divorced or separated parents of a minor child live in different countries, legal disputes concerning each parent’s rights and responsibilities regarding their custody and visitation rights can arise. In extreme cases, a parent might retain custody of a child with the purpose of interfering with the other parent’s custodial rights under a court order. The parent might flee to another country to avoid legal action from the other parent. This is known as “parental kidnapping.”

Parental kidnapping not only violates the legal rights of the other parent, but it risks harming the healthy development of their child by exposing them to personal and legal conflict between parents. Moreover, parental kidnapping does not necessarily involve taking a child against their will.

A parent might persuade the child to come with them willingly, but such an act still constitutes parental kidnapping. This is especially true when parental kidnapping occurs across international borders. When a parent fails to comply with the terms of a valid custody order, how does a parent enforce such an order in a different country?

What Is the Hague Abduction Convention?

To address the harms of parental kidnapping and confront the legal challenges in preventing it, several countries came together and signed a multilateral treaty known as The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction—or the Hague Abduction Convention for short. This treaty was signed in 1980 to “protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return.”

Today, there are 101 countries that are party to the Hague Abduction Convention. Each country has a “central authority” that is responsible for processing and administering child custody and enforcement claims from other countries. In the United States, the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues is the U.S. Central Authority (USCA) for purposes of The Hague Abduction Convention.

How Are International Custody Disputes Resolved in the United States?

The USCA is in charge of facilitating the return of abducted children to their home countries. The person seeking the return of a purported abducted child files a petition with USCA, which will investigate and locate the abducted child for the petitioner.

According to the State Department’s 2015 Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction, 781 abduction and access cases were resolved—273 from Mexico, 33 from Canada, 25 from the United Kingdom, 25 from Germany, and 425 from various other countries.

The Hague Abduction Convention also works in conjunction with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which was similarly developed to resolve custody disputes between separated and divorced parents and to prevent a parent from fleeing to another state with the intent of escaping the jurisdiction of the court that rendered the custody order. Most states, except for Massachusetts, have adopted the provisions of the UCCJEA. Furthermore, the UCCJEA provides for registration and enforcement mechanisms of foreign custody orders.

To Learn More, Call DiPietro Law Group, PLLC

If you need legal representation concerning matters involving international child custody under The Hague Abduction Convention, you should contact DiPietro Law Group, PLLC Our legal team has more than eight decades of combined legal experience handling family law issues like international child custody.

To arrange for an initial case evaluation, call us at (888) 530-4374 or contact our office onlinetoday.

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