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What happens when a custody dispute crosses borders?

On Behalf of | Apr 13, 2022 | Child Custody

Custody battles can be damaging to all involved, but they take on a special dimension when they become international border disputes. Hundreds of children leave the United States with one parent every year, leaving the other parent behind to desperately seek a remedy that would allow them to stay connected to their child.

Recent reporting from KXAN-TV cited the plight of a Central Texas father whose son was taken by the child’s mother back to Mexico after he had begun a court-supervised process to establish a relationship with his child. Even though the couple were never married, the father began to pursue custody of the child. The judge had granted him sole management conservatorship just before the biological mother crossed the border with the child.

The Hague Convention

In international custody or child abduction cases, the Hague Convention comes into play as an international treaty between countries to facilitate the return of children under the age of 16. The purpose of the treaty is to protect children from the harmful effects of removal, and to determine if it is in the best interests of the child to return or to stay.

The Convention outlines the conditions under which a court may deny the return of an abducted child:

  • If the child’s return would expose the child to harm.
  • If the child is of the age of majority and objects to the return.
  • If it has been more than one year and the child has settled.
  • The party seeking return has consented to the removal or does not have custody rights.

In such cases, attorneys not only represent the custodial rights of the parent left behind, but also the parent who may have left due to domestic violence. In 2017, 70% of abductions were by women, 80% of whom were the primary caretaker.

Child abduction cases in Texas

In 2020, more than a third of the international child abduction cases opened that year involved the removal of children to Mexico. It is a relatively simple procedure, as the parent removing the child can simply drive out of the country. As many of these children do not have citizenship in the country of arrival or U.S. passports, this also complicates matters.

When pursuing an international abduction case, it is important to know where the child custody order came from, and also that the home state is where the child has lived for the past six months. For residents of Dallas and surrounding areas, it is wise to get more information on the proper legal steps to take when seeking the return of your child.