The United States has 44.9 million foreign-born residents. There is always the possibility a foreign-born parent will flee the country, taking their child with them. During an international dispute over divorce, child support, or child custody, you must handle the stress of the situation while complying with international law.
Several problems may arise, including how to complete proper service to the other party. There may be a dispute over which country holds jurisdiction. Both parties must follow the Hague Convention.
Before venturing into an international child custody dispute, read this guide. We share things you need to know and why a Florida child custody lawyer is your best route to success.
1. Who Holds Jurisdiction?
The location of your child custody hearing and which country’s laws apply to your case is the first issue you need to resolve. If another country holds jurisdiction, you must navigate its legal system. This may require you to travel to another country to present your position in court.
When your child’s other parent removes them from the country, you need an attorney familiar with international child custody disputes.
The Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a treaty that came about during the Hague Convention. Its purpose is to ensure the return of a child to their home country following abduction by a parent.
2. Hague Convention
The Hauge Convention is an international treaty signed by several countries. The treaty provides for the immediate return of any children under 16 taken because of one parent’s non-compliance with a court order or wrongful removal of the child from their country of habitual residence.
The Convention determines which country holds jurisdiction if there is no existing court order. The decision is made using the status quo. This means the place the child was living before their abduction holds jurisdiction.
The Hauge Convention also sets forth the requirements for the service of legal documents. Each country has rules you must comply with for service to be legal. For instance, some countries require paperwork in English and that country’s native language.
Your international law attorney will be familiar with Hague Convention requirements. They will make sure filings meet all requirements.
3. Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
A US court can modify a child custody order if it deems such action appropriate and in the child’s best interests. You must file the action under the Uniform Child Custody and Enforcement Act to enforce or modify a custody order.
The Act awards jurisdiction to the child’s home state, meaning you must file the action in the court where the child lives. The UCCJEA can override a foreign child custody order if it deems jurisdiction proper within the United States.
This jurisdiction change is likely to occur if a child under 18 is now living in the U.S.
To ensure compliance with all domestic and international child custody laws, contact a child custody lawyer with experience in international family law.
4. Failure to Recognize U.S. Order
If one parent flees the US to a country not part of the Hauge Convention, that country may not require parents to comply with US court orders.
This applies to custody, parenting time, and child support. For example, if you have custody and support in the US, but the other parent resides outside the country, that country’s judicial system may refuse to enforce the US child support order.
Under such circumstances, you may need to hire an attorney in a foreign country. Your Florida child custody attorney can advise whether you need foreign legal representation.
5. File First
The key to ensuring everything comports with international legal requirements is to contact an international family law attorney before moving your children out of the country. If you believe the child’s other parent is contemplating such a move, contact an attorney to request court orders preventing their abduction.
If you are the first to file in the country where you want your children to reside, it is easier to claim jurisdiction. This allows you to have more control over the legal process. If the other parent has the children in a foreign country, talk with your child custody attorney about the best course of action.
6. International Parental Child Abduction
In 2020 there were 29,859 cases of missing children in the U.S. Parental abduction is the reason for 63% of all Amber alerts.
International Parental Child Abduction happens when a parent or guardian removes or retains a child outside their country of residence. This action breaches the other parent’s or guardian’s custody rights.
If you believe another parent, legal guardian, or someone acting on a parent’s behalf, may abduct your child, you can take the following steps:
- Obtain a court order prohibiting the child’s travel outside the United States.
- Advise law enforcement about the possibility of international parental child abduction. Provide copies of court orders prohibiting travel.
- If you believe an abduction has occurred, ask law enforcement to enter your child’s information on the National Crime Information Center missing person’s list.
- Contact airport police and airlines. Advise them of court orders that prevent your child’s international travel.
- Contact the Office of Children’s Issues, Prevention Branch, at 1-888-407-4747.
- Contact an international child custody attorney. They will help speed up the process of obtaining necessary court orders and contacting the proper authorities.
Without a court order, law enforcement may be unable to prevent the child from leaving the country. You must be ready to provide evidence of your parentage and legal rights via court order to retain the child within the United States.
7. Compare Custody Laws in Both Countries
If you and your children have dual citizenship, having jurisdiction in a foreign country may be more favorable. The attorneys representing you in both countries can compare laws and help you decide what is best for you and your child.
Because of the travel distance, children cannot attend school in both countries. They will not enjoy weekly or monthly visits with their non-custodial parent. There is also the added expense of travel between countries and who covers those costs.
Contact a Florida International Child Custody Attorney
Divorce and child custody disputes are emotional and complicated. Learning differences in the legal process can be overwhelming when dealing with a foreign country.
The Boyer Law Firm, P.L. has the knowledge and experience to handle your international family law case. Our founding attorney, Francis M. Boyer, is a Board Certified Specialist (BCS) in International Law. This is a credential held by only a few attorneys nationwide.
Let Boyer Law Firm’s experience help you resolve your international family law matter. Complete our online form or email us at [email protected] to schedule a consultation.
If your case needs immediate attention, call our nearest office for an appointment. Our Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami, and New York office phone numbers are below our contact form.