When parents divorce, they often have a child custody arrangement that addresses their responsibilities for the child. Sometimes, if there is a custody dispute, one parent may take the child without the other parent’s knowledge or permission, called abduction.
When the child is moved out of the country, it becomes an international custody issue. This is very serious and can lead to temporary or permanent elimination of that parent’s custody rights.
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a treaty that encourages the prompt return of abducted children. Its focus is on providing a shared civil remedy between partner countries.
Parents may need to use the Hague Convention even if they already have a custody order in place because U.S. court orders may not be recognized in other countries.
Under the Hague Convention, U.S. parents must demonstrate that the child habitually resided in the U.S., the child’s removal violated the parent’s custodial rights, the Hauge Convention must have been in force when the wrongful removal occurred and the child must be under 16 years old. The child’s return to his or her habitual residence does not depend on the child’s nationality or his or her parent’s immigration status.
A court may deny the return of an abducted child in some circumstances, including if the child objects to being returned, if the child’s return would expose him or her to physical or psychological harm or if the parent who is seeking the child’s return consented to the child’s removal.
International child custody issues can be very complex, but an experienced attorney can help.