How to Navigate International Child Custody Laws

Woman hand signing document

A child custody order is a legal document that specifies the visitation and custody arrangements for a minor in a divorce case. If one parent would like to move their child to another country, they need to formally request a modification to the order and get the court’s approval before the move.

Child Custody Orders and Foreign Countries

Sometimes parents continue to go through child custody disputes after they complete a divorce. For example, dispute almost always arises when one parent decides to move their child to a foreign country without consent from the other. United States court approval may not matter when a parent moves to a different country, as many foreign countries do not enforce United States custody orders. When a situation like this occurs, what are your options?

The Hauge Convention Treaty

The Hauge Convention Treaty (HCT) is an international document that was enacted by the United States to address the problem of international child abduction. The purpose of the HCT is to prevent parental international child abduction and provide a legal option for the return of any child to their home country.

It’s important to note that not every foreign country abides by the HCT. Only countries that have signed the treaty will honor the contract and help you get your child back.

To enforce the HCT, you must:

  • file a custody action in your local court asking for the enforcement of the HCT;
  • prove your child is a resident of your country;
  • prove the child was wrongfully removed from the country; and
  • serve the other parent with any legal documents authorized in the United States.

If the child has been moved to a country complying with the HCT, the court of this country must act quickly to return the abducted child. The child must be returned within 6 weeks from the date the custody action was filed.

How to Get Child Custody When the Other Parent Lives in a Foreign Country

Before attempting to initiate any child custody proceedings, it would be in your best interest to consult with a skilled international family law attorney. There are many unique challenges to overcome while working with international laws, and an attorney with this type of experience will know exactly what you need to do to succeed with custody arrangements.

If you are still married to the other parent, you should:

  • file for divorce or legal separation from your spouse;
  • file a petition for child support and custody. The petition must be filed in the country the child has resided in for at least 6 months; or
  • if you and the other parent aren’t married, you should file a paternity action.

We Provide Counsel for All International Custody Issues

International custody orders can be very complex because every country has specific laws and service requirements. Our attorney can help you throughout the entire process of obtaining a child custody order if the other parent lives in, or has recently moved to, a foreign country.

Contact our attorney at (469) 646-7763 or contact us online for your legal consultation.

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