International child custody battle nets state, federal charges

As many in California are aware, child custody issues can be contentious in a divorce and after. In most cases, both parents want what they believe to be in the best interest of their children. However, in some child custody matters, the parties just don't seem to be able to agree on what is best for the children and sometimes one or both act solely out of self-interest.

In many child custody agreements in California there is language regarding potential relocation. This often comes up when one parent gets a job opportunity in another state, but there are usually restrictions on the relocation of a child absent an agreement between the parties. Absent such an agreement, court approval is normally required to go outside the terms of a child custody agreement. When those restrictions are violated and a child is relocated, there can be consequences for the custodial parent.

In one recent case, a mother says that the father of their three children has relocated them from Kansas to his native Gaza without her permission. The divorced mother says she did give permission for the children to go to Gaza for the wedding of their aunt, but only after the father sent her an email confirmation of a return trip, which apparently turned out to be a fake. However, the father left the country with the children and has since stated he has no intention of returning. He has been charged with federal and state crimes relating to the removal of the children.

The mother in this tragic case may face an uphill battle to get her children back because Gaza is not a party to The Hague Convention governing the return of children improperly removed or retained in violation of a child custody order. When a child is relocated without the permission of a court, the other parent can ask the court to intervene. The court can make changes to parental custody rights, and violations of court orders can result in criminal accusations against a parent accused of defying an edict. If a parent wishes to relocate with a child to another jurisdiction or country, he or she would do well to review all applicable court orders and relevant laws before proceeding.

Source: Fox News, "US claims father illegally moved kids to Gaza," May 2, 2012

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