Robert G. Smith, PLLC

Child custody and international abduction

New York parents may benefit from learning that there are laws in place regarding scenarios in which one parent abducts a child and leaves the United States. The U.S. is a signatory to the Hague Abduction Convention, a treaty that provides a legal framework by which children may be returned home. Here, "home" means the United States, their country of habitual residence. The laws of the country where the child normally resides should be the ones determining matters of visitation and custody, according to the Convention.

Following a divorce, a court will typically grant a child custody order. However, these court orders may not be recognized in other countries, and without the assistance of the Hague Abduction Convention, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to get assistance from local authorities. The United States and all other signatories to the treaty have a Central Authority, which will be the main contact point for parents seeking government assistance in cases of abduction. These may require proof of parentage or other documentation.

The Convention only applies to children under the age of 16. It may only be used if custodial rights, as determined by the child's home country, were violated. Furthermore, if it is determined by the Convention that the child would be exposed to psychological or physical harm in the country of habitual residence, the Convention may rule that the child not be returned. The child may also have a say in his or her fate if he or she has reached a degree of maturity for self-accounting, determined on a case-by-case basis.

The process of handling international abduction requires a lot of planning, paperwork, strategy and other legal considerations. A custody lawyer who handles immigration and foreign issues may be vital when it comes to protecting the best interests of a child in such an instance.

Source: U.S. Department of State, "Print Email Important Features of the Hague Abduction Convention - Why the Hague Convention Matters", November 18, 2014

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Robert G. Smith, PLLC
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