What happens if your child’s other parent responds to your request for a divorce by fleeing the country with your child in tow?
If you’re lucky, the country your child has been taken to is a member of the Hague Convention. The Hague Convention is an agreement formed by a number of countries that focuses on the child — and puts jurisdiction in the hands of the court where the child habitually lives.
It also establishes a Central Authority in each member country that will help locate an abducted child. The Central Authority will often try to get the abducting parent to surrender the child peacefully.
One of the most important features of the Hague Convention is that you do not have to have a formal custody order in place at the time of the abduction in order to assert the right to have your child returned to the United States. As long as removing your child from your care in this manner is considered wrongful and an interference of your custodial rights, the Hague Convention applies. That alone can help streamline a child’s return to his or her usual country of residence.
Keep in mind, however, that even if the Hague Convention applies, you may still face a serious fight to get your child back. The Hague Convention doesn’t obligate a country to return a child if he or she is aged 16 or older or is mature enough in the foreign court’s estimation to have an opinion on the matter and wants to stay in the new country. A country also isn’t obligated to return a child to another country if there’s a serious risk that the child would be exposed to physical or psychological harm if he or she were returned.
You can probably expect, at the very least, for your child’s parent to level abuse accusations against you in an attempt to win international authorities over to his or her side.
Don’t try to fight an international abduction on your own. Talk to an attorney who has experience handling international abductions. For information on how our firm approaches child custody cases, please visit our page.