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International child custody issues in divorce

Today's world is becoming smaller, with travel easier between countries and around the world. As a result, many couples nowadays may come from two different countries. When these couples have children, they may have dual citizenship and possibly residences in both of the countries.

While multiculturalism is an asset in many ways, it can become problematic during a divorce. Child custody matters in a dual-culture marriage with residencies and citizenship spanning more than one country can bring up complex issues.

What laws govern international child custody?

When a couple with citizenship in differing countries decides to divorce, they must first face the issue of jurisdiction over their divorce. It may not be entirely straightforward which court has a say over their divorce proceedings. In some cases, a couple may have married in a different country than their current country of residence. When children come into the picture, the proceedings are more complex because if the couple cannot agree about issues regarding custody and visitation, a judge must address and decide on those issues.

An international treaty, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, governs issues in which one parent abducts a child or children and moves them to another country without permission. Various countries signed this treaty, which entered into force in 1983. Member countries agree to its rules regarding returning a child to his or her lawful country of residence. In the United States, the U.S. Justice Department states that "federal law prohibits a parent from removing a child from the United States or retaining a child in another country with intent to obstruct another parent's custodial rights."

First steps in child custody with international issues

When there is an international aspect to child custody issues in a divorce, there are several important questions to address. One of these is understanding the correct jurisdiction that will be able to handle the court case. Another issue that often arises in these cases is that of having to work with attorneys in another country. The issues of a cross-border divorce and child custody matter are complex.

One of the first steps a spouse with international child custody issues facing a divorce should do is to contact an attorney who works with these types of cases. With so much at stake, it is important to trust the case to a lawyer who knows how these issues work.

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