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International Child Custody Laws FAQ

Love is international. Unfortunately, so are some of the disputes that arise after the love is gone. And for love stories that included chapters on children, figuring out custody issues across international borders can be a tough read.

So here are some frequently asked questions, and answers, regarding international child custody laws:

  1. Do I Need to Go to Court? Not all child custody decisions need to be decided by a judge. If you are on decent terms with your ex-spouse, the two of you can likely work out a parenting agreement on your own and just have a court sign off on it. And even if your relationship is contentious, there are ways to work together to resolve custody issues that don't involve the courts.
  2. Who Has Jurisdiction? Before you can settle custody disputes, you need to settle on a court to hear those issues. If you live in the United States and your ex has taken your child to Japan, where do you turn for justice? As with many legal questions, this answer will depend on the specific circumstances of your case. If all parties are currently in the United States, it's possible for a state or federal court to issue a custody order in the case. If the child is residing in another country, you may need to go to court in that country to obtain custody rights.
  3. What If the Child Has Been Abducted? Abduction seems like a harsh word to describe child custody, but if one parent flees with the child to another country that's the term that applies. And the law that applies to international parental abduction is the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Convention is a treaty that provides a remedy for parents if a child is taken out of the country he or she habitually lived without the consent of a custodial parent and in breach of their custody rights. Unfortunately not all countries have signed on to the Convention, so you may have to use other legal or political means to regain custody of an abducted child.

Custody issues are legally and emotionally complex, even when they don't involve international law. If you need help with an international custody issue, you should contact an experienced child custody attorney near you.

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