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Can my ex take our child back to their home country after divorce?

It is becoming increasingly common in our world to have marriages between citizens of two different countries. When these marriages fail, it can lead to a complicated situation, since bringing children to another country is much different from bringing them to a different state within the same country.

If your ex-spouse wants to return to their home country after your divorce, and the divorce decree granted them full custody, is there anything you can do to stop them?

The Hague Convention

In general, a parent cannot take a child to a different country without the consent of the other. If you withhold consent, your ex-spouse could still request permission to go from the court, but such permission is rare. There is an international treaty that gives you recourses if your ex-spouse tries to take the children abroad without your permission and without the court’s permission.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a treaty that the United States adopted in 1980. It was designed to combat international child abduction by one parent.

Under the Hague Convention, one of the child’s legal parents needs the consent of the other legal parent before they can take the child out of the country. If a parent leaves the country without this consent, the other parent can use the Hague Convention’s legal process to make that new country find and return the child to the original country so that the custody dispute can be resolved in a court there.

Recognition of foreign judgments

It’s important to note that the Hague Convention is only in effect in countries that have signed on to it. In other words, this legal process is only available to you if your ex-spouse’s country is a signatory to the treaty.

If not, you’ll have to try to get your American judgment recognized in a court of your ex-spouse’s new country, so that they will enforce its terms. This can be a difficult process, as many foreign courts are hesitant about recognizing and adopting judgments from courts of other countries. You might need to retain both an American international law firm and a law firm in the new country to make the process run smoothly.

There’s nothing more heart-wrenching than child custody disputes, especially when one parent takes the children far away from the other parent. Luckily, there are treaties in place that can give you some recourse in the event that your ex-spouse tries to leave with the children without permission.