More people than ever are involved in international or cross-border relationships. People often travel the world for work or education, and they may fall in love and even marry and have children while living abroad. Others might develop a relationship with a foreign national in the United States. Divorce and separation can be complicated regardless of the nationalities of the parties involved, especially when it comes to child custody.
However, international relationships can make child custody issues more complex. Depending on where the parents and child were living, the law of that country controls how custody is divided. While U.S. family courts tend to prefer joint custody and active involvement of both parents, that is not the case in every other country. Also, a person who remained in the U.S. due to a marriage or other relationship may need or want to return home even though they have an American child. While child abduction is a rare outcome even in highly contentious custody disputes, it does happen. In fact, parental abductions are far more common than those involving strangers.
When a parental abduction crosses international borders, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction comes into play. This treaty, which provides a protocol for returning an abducted international child, has been adopted by 98 countries. The agreement provides that a child brought without permission to a signatory state must be returned to the country where the child had established normal residence, with custody to be decided there.
Child custody disputes can be challenging domestically, but the problems of an international divorce can pose more significant concerns. A family law attorney could help a parent advocate for a fair custody solution and parenting plan.