What can I do if my ex wrongfully takes my child to live abroad?

Child custody disputes can be heated and complex. This is especially true if one parent lives abroad and brings the child abroad in violation of an existing child custody order issued in the United States. What options does the U.S. parent have in such situations?

The Hague Convention

If a parent absconds abroad with their child in violation of an existing child custody order, the U.S. parent’s rights are governed by the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This is an international treaty that applies to most European countries and other western countries. It also applies to a few nations in Africa, South America and the Middle East.

The Convention does not dictate which parent should have the child in their care. Instead, it is meant to ensure the child is sent back to the nation where the custodial parent resides.

When will a child be returned to the United States?

A child will be sent back to the United States under the following circumstances. First, the child must be under age 16 and must have been residing in a nation that is a signatory to the Hague Convention. Second, someone must have taken the child outside that nation. This must be in violation of your custody rights. Finally, the child must currently be in a nation that is a signatory of the convention.

Know your rights

If your child was abducted abroad by the child’s other parent in violation of an existing custody order, it is essential that you make a claim per the Convention within 12 months of the abduction. If not, the judge has the ability to consider how your child is adjusting to the new nation. Because international child custody issues are so complex, you will want to make sure you understand all your rights and options before proceeding.