International Child Custody Cases.
International child custody is essentially a specialty within a specialty. Most family law practitioners do not have the additional skills, training, and experience to appropriate address issues raised when one or both of the parties’ in a family matter is from another county, or there are international issues.
Cases with international issues implicate both domestic or state law, federal law, international law, and potentially the laws of the other county. While international kidnapping is a well known type of international custody case, there are many different issues that arise in family part cases.
In general courts do not allow a parent to take a child to a jurisdiction that has more favorable laws. The laws basically require custody litigation to occur in the place where the child resides. Parents cannot simple move and expect that the new location, which may have more favorable laws, will decide custody issues.
There are several important laws when dealing with international child custody issues. The two most common are the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).
The Hague Convention provides for immediate return of children who are taken from their country of "habitual residence" in violation of "custody rights." Courts do not consider substantive custody questions such as parental fitness or the child’s best interests. The purpose of the Convention is to send children back to their primary residence, where they came from, after making a determination about a very limited set of factual questions.
The UCCJEA is a law that has been adopted in each state within the United States. Each state may have slight variations from the model act, however, the basic provisions tend to be the same throughout the county. The purpose of the act is to clearly and consistently define jurisdiction in custody cases.
Although kidnapping and jurisdictional questions are two issues, there are many other issues that can arise. Often times a parent may want to relocate with the child(ren) after a divorce. When a parent moves with a child to another country there are many additional details that need to be attended to in a divorce or post-divorce agreement. If the move is by consent then the details can be worked out in a detailed agreement. If the non-moving parent does not consent the case will need to be presented to a judge. Many of these cases result in lengthy trials and judges generally need to be presented with substantial information about the country to which a party seeks to relocate.
Finding counsel who is capable of presenting, litigating, and resolving these types of cases can be difficult. Many attorneys limit their practice to family law, but most do not have substantial experience in handling international cases. You want to look for an attorney who is Board Certified, a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and who also has experience in international family part cases. The attorneys at Cores & Associates, LLC are experienced in handling these complex matters. Please contact our office to schedule a consultation.
Other Websites Containing International Custody Information
Office of Children’s Issues
U.S. State Department
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Directory
Bill Hilton’s collection of International Custody Cases
Hague Conference on Private International Law - HCCH