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International Child Custody: Three Things You Need To Know


The recently concluded presidential election has resulted in considerable talk about people and borders, including talk of building a wall at the Mexican border and others wishing to move north to Canada or abroad to Europe. 

For people with children – particularly those who are unmarried or divorced – this raises important questions about what happens to children when a parent lives overseas or wishes to move overseas. 

We have decided to take this opportunity to inform the public about some important facets of international child custody. Here are three things you need to know. 

1. Jurisdiction. Jurisdiction. Jurisdiction.

Jurisdiction – where the legal action must be filed – is the key when it comes to any case involving children and international boundaries, whether the case is a custody dispute, a parental relocation matter, or a child abduction. 

Many international child custody cases involve the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). They can also involve the 1980 Hague Convention. This becomes very complicated as not all countries are signatories to the Hague Convention. Learn more

2. Not All Family Law Attorneys Have The Skill To Resolve These Issues

First of all, an attorney must choose to be engaged in these issues and have a thorough understanding of the UCCJEA, the Hague Convention, and other relevant laws. 

It’s still necessary to have an attorney who understands more than just the laws involved. To be successful in this complex area of the law, an attorney must: 

  • Quickly identify how jurisdictional and venue issues will impact your case
  • Be able to work with attorneys around the world
  • Have access to credible experts who can help build a strong case
  • Understand the advantages and disadvantages of different jurisdictions

3. There Is A Fine Line Between A Custody Dispute And Parental Kidnapping

It is important to act quickly if you have any reason to believe that your child’s other parent may be taking him or her overseas in the midst of a dispute. Parents can contact the U.S. State Department’s Children’s Passport Alert System to prevent a passport being issued to their minor child. This is critical as, once a passport is issued, the department will not be able to prevent it from being used to take the child out of the country.