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Handling Child Custody Disputes in Other Countries


It is easy for divorced parents to disagree about how to raise a child, as well as how much time the child should spend with each parent. Most divorced parents find a way to work out these issues so the child is not affected or harmed by adult conflict. Divorced parents are expected to follow the terms of the court-approved parenting plan, and if properly drafted, this document should make it clear what each parent’s rights and responsibilities are. Unfortunately, not all parents want to stay in compliance with these agreements, and if they have the means and ability to take the child out the country to keep the child from the other parent, the ability to take action and get fair results is extremely complicated. In many of these international custody disputes, parental kidnapping is involved, and dealing with foreign courts is frequently necessary, and far from predictable or fair. One mother from Merritt Island is battling to get her children back from Lebanon after their father kept them past the two-week vacation a U.S. court approved. Understanding the main issues and obstacles commonly seen in these situations is important for parents trying to cope, and a discussion of who has authority to decide these child custody cases, and the laws used to curb and respond to parental kidnapping, will follow below.


Understanding which court has authority to hear a child custody dispute is one of the first and most important aspects that need to be determined in order to proceed. Typically, the court that issued the initial child custody order, whether it be in Florida or another State, will keep exclusive jurisdiction of future related matters. However, the authority to hear a child custody dispute can be lost if a court decides the parent and child no longer have connections with this State, the child’s care and education is no longer occurring in this State, or the person caring for the child no longer lives in this State. Basically, the place where the child has the closest connections and will serve the best interests of him/her should be asked to decide custody issues, and the Uniform Child Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act was created to facilitate the cooperation and clarity to achieve this purpose.

Parental Kidnapping

Disagreements over custody issues are stressful regardless of the complexity, but many international disputes have the added complication of parental kidnapping across borders. If the U.S.-based parent is lucky, the child ends up in a country governed by the Hague Convention, an international treaty with over 100 signatory countries that is intended to provide guidelines for determining if the child has been illegally removed, and to help get him/her back home. The child’s “habitual home” will decide where the child should be and which parent has legal custody rights. If the country is not subject to the Hague Convention, the parent seeking the child’s return will have to use the local court system to sue for custody. Certain foreign courts are hostile to outsiders suing for child custody, so retaining an experienced child custody attorney as soon as possible is essential to taking the right approach from the beginning.

Get Legal Advice from a Florida Family Law Attorney

Seeing your child should not be negotiable or up for debate. If you are having custody issues with a former spouse, and fear he/she is planning to leave or withhold the child from you, talk to the attorneys at the Donna Hung Law Group as soon as possible. Any extended time from your child is detrimental to the relationship, and our Orlando team will fight to have your parental rights enforced. Contact us at (407) 999-0099 to schedule a consultation.