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International child abductions

One of the greatest fears that California divorced parents have is that a non-custodial parent will attempt to take their child away on a trip and not return. When that parent has foreign ties and goes to another country, the fear of an abduction is even higher, and the process of obtaining the child's safe return can become more difficult.

So far, more than 90 countries, including the United States, have signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The signatories have agreed to help expedite the return of abducted children taken to their countries by complying with standard practices. According to the Hague Convention, a child under the age of 16 who was abducted less than a year before a petition was filed should be immediately returned to their home country.

When a child is abducted overseas by a parent, it is important for the other parent to take action as quickly as possible, including filing a petition in state or federal court. If it is denied, the decision must be promptly appealed. After a year has gone by since the custody order was violated, the foreign government can use its discretion about ordering the return of the child. Some countries do not recognize equal custody rights and may leave a child with the mother even if the mother is the one committing the abduction.

Despite the agreements that were made in the Hague Convention, not all foreign governments expedite the return of children abducted by divorced parents. A parent who is seeking the return of an abducted child should have help from an attorney who can help communicate with the foreign courts about an international abduction and make sure that the courts understand how the child custody order was violated.

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