When separated or divorced parents live in two different countries, the already-complex child custody process can become even more difficult. There are many cultural benefits your child gets to experience by living in two different countries. But as a parent, you are also in a tough position, because you have to figure out how to manage custody between two places while giving your child enough time with both parents.
There are a few unique factors that may affect your case. Here are three points to consider when planning for international custody matters.
3 factors to consider when working out an international custody plan
Education: Education is a critically important matter. Do you want your children to be educated in the United States or the other parent’s home country? Which would be better for them, and which would give them better opportunities?
Most students in the United States public schools enjoy summers off. But in many countries around the world, students get several shorter breaks throughout the year.
School leaving age (the age at which a student is legally allowed to stop attending) varies greatly from country to country. In some countries, it is as early as 10 years old. In others, it is as late as 18 years old.
In the United States, special education programs have been mandatory since 1975. But around the world, special education programs vary widely. If your child is accustomed to special ed in the United States, it may be an adjustment to move to a program in another country where special education is not a high priority.
These are just a few examples of ways in which education systems vary from country to country – something you and your child will have to deal with in an international custody situation.
Medical care: Does your child have any health concerns or medical needs? If so, where can they get the right help? Can they travel, and if not, how will you encourage time with both parents?
Health insurance coverage can be a complicated issue as children live part of the year in one country, and the rest of the year in another. Additionally, the differences between health care quality and accessibility – pertaining to both physical and mental health – can vary widely.
Travel plans: How will your child get from point A to point B? Will you or the other parent travel with them? How often is reasonable for international travel? Can your child travel alone, or are there safety concerns that need to be addressed when your child visits a foreign country?
These are all great questions and things that you should answer before you finalize your custody agreement.
What kinds of visitation plans work between countries?
Usually, it’s not reasonable to travel between countries often, though there are exceptions. For most people, a visitation schedule may need to have digital elements, such as virtual calls, to have the other parent interact with the child regardless of which country they’re in.
Many parents choose custody schedules that place their child in one country for schooling. Then, in the summer or on school breaks, they may travel back and forth.
This is a complex situation to be in, but it’s possible for you to plan for international custody and to come up with a good solution. Working with an experienced international child custody attorney can help ensure that your legal bases are covered, while providing practical and logistical recommendations based on your unique situation.