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International Family Law: Ne Exeat. It Means What It Says.

Love is blind.  Blind to everything.  Blind to rational thought, blind to logic, blind to self interest and even blind to self preservation.  And in the International Family Law context, blind to the frightening implications of Ne Exeat.

Ne Exeat might appropriately be considered a trend that is spreading across the globe. It translates as "No Exit." It means that if you fall in love with someone from another country and decide to have children in that country and that country has enacted a Ne Exeat law, you might never come home again.  Not with your children anyway.

Ne Exeat gives one parent the power to reject the custodial parent's efforts to repatriate themself and their children to the United States. 

Here's the scenario.  A young woman travels to a foreign country for study, experience, adventure.  She meets a charming man from that country.  They fall in love.  Their love becomes a marriage.  Their marriage produces a little baby girl.  Imagine now that the marriage is two years in.  The child is one year old. The marriage has gone sour.  The charming man has charmed someone else and has moved on. Now, the reason for the young woman to stay has gone away. The young woman's family and entire support structure are back home, in the U.S.

She gets it now.  "There's no place like home." She wants to go home.  She and her baby, whom she has nursed, cuddled, carried and constantly cared for need to come home to the extended family who still love her.  

But there's a problem. The young woman, now a mother, cannot repatriate with the child without the father's consent.  And he doesn't.  Imagine that he's not only moved on with another woman but that he has started another family.  He hardly sees the little girl.  He doesn't financially support her either.  But still, under Ne Exeat law, he can prevent the mother from ever taking the little girl home.

The mother is quite literally trapped in that foreign land, away from her family, for at least 16 years.  And probably quite longer, for the child, by the time she turns 16, only knows that foreign land as her land, her home.  That child's attachment to the United States is one of vacations, at best, if she was ever allowed to even visit here.  That child is very unlikely to ever move from her home to her mother's home. So, if she wishes to be near her daughter, that U.S. young woman, now a mother, one day to be a grandmother, may well live out the rest of her years in that foreign country that so long ago she only wished to sojourn through, not die in.

International family law can be very, very cold.  Ne Exeat.  It means what it says.  No Exit.  Not now.  Probably not ever.

So I preach to the young people interested in studying abroad, "don't do it. Don't travel abroad and fall in love and settle down there to raise your children. Not without knowing with certainty that you are ready to become a citizen of that foreign land."  Because you might never come home again.

But love is blind; deaf, dumb but particularly blind.  One doesn't contemplate such horrible consequences when they've found their soul mate.  The world is lovely, bright and beautiful.  And that brilliant moment in time will always last an eternity.

Would that it were so.

Michael Manely

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