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International Child Abduction

Most child abductions involve one parent who has absconded with the child. This is a horrific nightmare for any parent, but especially if the abducting parent took the child outside of the United States. If this happens, you will want to immediately obtain a court order for return of the child. Most countries have agreed to a uniform way of handling these requests for such court orders. You may have heard of it – it is called being a signor on the Hague Convention. But speed is essential. If this happens to you, you should take immediate action and know the following:

If you are concerned that your child may be taken to another country without your permission, one way to prevent this is to contact an attorney or the court and get a court order prohibiting the child from leaving the country.

Once you have that order, provide a copy to all local law enforcement agencies, TSA, CBP, and the Department of State. This will create a flag within their systems associated with the child’s name.

Without a court order, it can be difficult for a government agency to prevent an abduction. If you think that your child is at risk but do not have a court order, you can contact the Department of State, but they may not be able to assist. The State Department website states, “Be aware the United States does not have exit controls or require two-parent consent for a minor to travel across international borders. Law enforcement may be unable to prevent an abduction without a valid court order clearly prohibiting the child’s travel outside of the United States.”
Bottom line: If you have any concerns whatsoever, get a court order!

If your child has been taken overseas without your consent or in violation of a court order, the State Department has resources that can help you

In addition, if your child has been taken to a country that is a signor to the Hague Convention, relief is available that way. A claim can be filed if a child is removed from their country of residence or retained outside of that country – for example, if a child was taken to another country for a set period of time but the parent is refusing to return them.

The Hague Convention refers to a uniform policy adopted by most countries which will recognize Court orders of other countries who are also signors to the Hague Convention. It is an international law where each signor agrees to honor the child custody orders of another signor, if that court order was entered in accordance with certain child custody standards.

Read the full text of the Hague Convention.

In order to obtain jurisdiction under the Hague convention, your petition must be filed in either state or federal court where the child is located, the child must be under sixteen, and both countries involved must be signatories to the Hague Convention.

If the court does have jurisdiction under the Hague Convention, you would have to prove that your child was removed from their country of habitual residence, that the removal was in violation of your right to custody, and that you were either actually exercising those rights when your child was removed or would have been exercising them if not for the removal.

Provided you have met the requirements stated above, your ex can argue the following:

  1. One year has passed and the child is well-settled;
  2. That you originally consented or subsequently agreed to the move;
  3. That there is grave risk of physical or psychological harm to your child if returned, meaning that the return will place your child in an intolerable situation or that return of your child would result in a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  4. Your child has reached an age of maturity and objects to the return.

Message from McCarthy Family Law​

McCarthy Family Law is a full service family law firm that services all family law issues. If you are going through a divorce or have questions about filing for divorce, we are here to assist you. Please call us at 520-623-0341 to explore your options. Turning Stress Into Solutions®.