According to the U.S. Census Bureau, international marriages are on the rise. And that means an increase in relationships crossing borders. This has also created a glut of international divorce and custody disputes.
If you think that a parent or your partner could take your child out of the state or country, there are a few treaties, laws and statues you should be aware of to help you resolve an international divorce and custody battle in your favor.
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, also known as the Hague Convention, is an international treaty to help promptly return children wrongfully abducted.
The Hague Convention only applies between countries that have signed the Convention, and its reach is limited to children ages 16 and under.
The Convention’s central operating feature is the return remedy. When a child under the age of 16 has been wrongfully retained, the country to which the child has been brought must order the return of the child unless certain exceptions apply.
The Hague Convention also deters abductions. It does that by eliminating the primary motivation for abducting. Since the goal of the taking parent is to get rights of custody from another country, when a child is wrongfully removed, the other country must order the return of the child forthwith.
I’ve written on international divorce and custody before, especially as they relate to child custody issues and The Hague Convention on abduction.
In addition to the Hague Convention, you’ll need to know if there are cultural or religious beliefs that could impact your case. For example, some countries have a preference for granting sole physical custody mothers, and others to fathers.
International custody disputes are difficult to navigate, but so are interstate divorce and custody cases: meaning cases between parents living in two different U.S. states.
Generally, when two parents reside in Florida, Florida custody laws will apply. However, when one of the parents and the child move across state lines, you have an interstate custody problem.
To help with conflicts between different laws in different American states, the Uniform Law Commission is tasked with drafting laws on various subjects that attempt to bring uniformity across American state lines.
With respect to family law, different American states had adopted different approaches to issues related to interstate custody, visitation, and time-sharing. The results were that different states had conflicting resolutions to the same problems.
To seek harmony in this area, the Uniform Law Commission promulgated the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (the UCCJEA), which Florida and almost all U.S. states passed into law.
The most fundamental aspect of the UCCJEA is the approach to the jurisdiction needed to start a case. In part, the UCCJEA requires a court have some jurisdiction vis-a-vis the child. That jurisdiction is based on where the child is, and the significant connections the child has with the forum state, let’s say Florida for this example. The ultimate determining factor in a Florida case then, is what is the “home state” of the child.
The Census fact sheet on international marriage is here.