When a Parent Takes Your Child Out of the Country
Sharing child custody will always present challenges, and as time passes and the circumstances of the lives of the parents and child change, what worked five years ago may no longer be relevant. Working together to find a compromise is the best way to avoid additional disputes and avoid disrupting the child’s life too much. Regardless of the parents’ ability to agree, though, it is not permissible for one parent to take it upon himself/herself to alter how the parenting plan will work. Each parent has a right to see and communicate with his/her child on a regular basis, unless a court order says otherwise, and one parent does not have the right to withhold the child from the other in violation of the parenting plan. Withholding a child can manifest as one parent moving far away without prior consent or court approval, or intentionally removing the child to an unknown location, which is more prevalent when a parent takes a child out of the country. The parent left behind will be forced to take legal action to regain physical custody of the child, which is complicated in the best of situations. A Florida father is facing this situation as he wages a years-long fight to regain his children after his ex-wife took them to ISIS strongholds once she joined the group. Parents dealing with international child custody issues need to understand a few key points on the approach courts use in these cases, and they will be explored below.
Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act
Enforcing the terms of a parenting plan is easier when both parents and the child are in the same state, because courts have the strongest level of authority in this situation. When seeking to enforce a custody order across state or country lines, the practical limitations of the physical distance of the child will be a factor. While Florida courts generally retain the authority to enforce child custody orders if they issued the initial custody determination, or assume it if the child/parent establishes enough of a connection here, if the child is located in another state or country, it will be necessary to rely on local authorities to execute an order to the return the child. Further, a Florida court can lose jurisdiction if the child’s connection to the state becomes too tenuous, the information related to the child’s care, training, and relationships are no longer in Florida, or neither the child nor parents live in this state any longer. Basically, the court is concerned with figuring out which court is best positioned to make decisions related to the child and avoid conflicting orders from other courts. Thus, the appropriateness of accessing Florida courts to address an outstanding child custody issue will depend on the circumstances of the case, with the understanding that farther a court has to reach to impose its authority, the less effective and permissible it will be.
The other piece of international custody disputes is whether a parent illegally took the child out of the country. Getting the child back will not be easy, but if the country where the child is located follows the Hague Convention treaties (more than 100 are current members), parents have a much better chance of getting a response. Countries that abide by this agreement are obligated to check if the child’s current location is the appropriate home state, and if not, return the child to the other parent. If the country is not a signatory, the parent will have to go through local courts to regain custody, which may be hostile to American litigants, so getting the advice of a Florida family law attorney as soon as possible is crucial to exploring the avenue most likely to result in the child’s return.
Contact a Florida Family Law Attorney
Safeguarding your child’s welfare is your top concern, and if you have a parent located in another country who is failing to abide by the terms of your parenting plan, talk to a family law attorney today. The longer it takes to initiate legal action, the longer until you see your child again. The attorneys at the Port St. Lucie law firm of Baginski Brandt & Brandt are invested in getting you the best possible result. Contact us at 772-466-0707 to schedule a confidential consultation.