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How Are International Child Custody Cases Handled?

by | Jul 21, 2020 | child custody and support, News and Events

Child custody cases in New York can be extraordinarily complex, even when both parents live in the state. Out-of-state child custody cases tend to be even more involved, and international child custody cases are arguably the most intricate. Here’s what you should know about how international child custody cases are handled, how you can relocate with your child internationally without penalty, and what to do if your ex has taken your child out of the country against court orders.

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How International Jurisdiction of Child Custody Cases is Determined

The first order of business in an international child custody case is the same as an out-of-state custody case — to determine which location has jurisdiction over the matter. In an international case, this means it must be decided which country’s laws are to be followed when negotiating physical and legal custody, time-sharing, and other common family law matters.

International courts are not required to abide by U.S. custody agreements and may choose to disregard them entirely. If a child spends equal time with both parents who live in different countries, it may be challenging to determine which country should have jurisdiction. However, if a child spends the majority of time with one parent and only visits the other, the country of the primary caretaker is likely to be considered the one to have jurisdiction over the case.

If an international court has determined that a country has jurisdiction and you disagree, you will likely need to file an action in that country and provide adequate evidence to demonstrate why another country would be more appropriate to have jurisdiction over the case.

How Can a Parent Relocate a Child Internationally?

If a child custody order has been issued in one country and a parent desires to relocate the child to another country, they may not legally do so without first having the original custody order modified. You can file a modification request in the country that currently has jurisdiction over the case and will be given the opportunity to show why it is in your child’s best interests to relocate internationally.

Often, the custodial parent will need to show that they have a visitation plan that still allows the child to spend time with the non-custodial parent even when living in another country. If the non-custodial parent wishes to relocate the child to another country, they will likely need to first file an action to re-determine physical and legal custody. Often, this is done only in cases where the non-custodial parent can show clear evidence that changing the custody arrangements and taking the child out of the country would be best for their health and wellbeing, such as in cases of child abuse.

What to Do If Your Ex Has Wrongly Taken Your Child Out of the Country

If your ex has taken your child out of the country without having first had the original custody order modified, this is usually considered parental kidnapping. Parental kidnapping is defined by one parent not returning the child to the other parent at the agreed-upon time as stated in the custody order. It can occur in any town, state, or country, even if both parents live in the same area, but is particularly concerning when it becomes an international issue.

The Hague Convention is a treaty between the United States and many other countries that can help a parent get their child back after being wrongly removed from the country by the other parent. For the Hague Convention to apply, the country the child was taken to must be a signatory to the treaty and the parent must file a petition with a New York court asking for them to invoke the Hague Convention. The treaty does not allow parents to modify child custody agreements but does allow for an abducted child to be returned to their home country.

Get Help with International Child Custody Cases from an Experienced Long Island Family Lawyer

If you’re involved in an international child custody case or simply have questions about child custody, visitation, and divorce on Long Island, the divorce and family law firm of Hornberger Verbitsky PC can help. Contact us today to speak with one of our seasoned family law attorneys to learn more about your legal options and what your next step should be to protect the rights and best interests of your family. Call now at 631-923-1910.



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