All Family Law, All Around the WorldSM

Your Case Is Local, Until It Isn’t

When going through a family law case involving children, whether it is divorce or a modification of custody action, the focus is often on who is going to have primary custody (if anyone) rather than where that legal relationship with the children is going to be. There may be no apparent immediate need to have an answer to where a child is going to be, everyone is staying put or someone may be moving but you know to where and when, it is already taken care of. But life has a funny way of changing and when it does your family and the plans you thought you had are just as mercurial.

In an article published by Forbes, studies found that in June of 2023 12.7% of full-time employees in the United States work from home remotely and projections anticipate this percentage jumping to 22% of the American workforce by 2025 (about 32.6 million people). Since the pandemic, virtual work has become more and more accepted, and 49 countries offer “digital nomad visas” allowing visitors to work abroad remotely. As the global economy changes and adapts following the initial stages of the COVID 19 pandemic, remote work appears to be on the rise. This trend coupled with the ease of access to international travel and a parent that does not feel the need to keep you in the loop, or wants to abscond, could spell trouble for your child custody plans if the right precautions have not been taken and the right advice is not received.

When child custody questions arise because of a move within the United States, usually the Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Enforcement Act will dictate which state’s courts get to decide the matter. When dealing with child custody questions that come up because a child has been removed from the U.S., things get complicated. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty that provides a mechanism for the return of children who have been wrongfully taken or retained across international borders. The Hauge Convention is a useful, though expensive, tool when it is available. If the country your child has been taken to is not a party to the Hague Convention, the avenue to the return of the child through judicial means is limited to the courts of the country your child has been whisked away to. If successfully securing the return of your child to the U.S. through the courts of another country which may or may not afford recognition to U.S. child custody sounds like a daunting task that is because it is. There are ways to prevent and pre-empt this issue and they start with consulting with attorneys that are not only experienced in family law but understand the implications of travel abroad and international family law.

During a divorce with minor children or custody modification action, advocate for and ensure that any final order/agreement contains provisions limiting travel to countries which are parties to the Hague Convention. The list of parties can be found on the U.S. Department of State website. If you find yourself post-divorce or modification action and you catch wind that the other parent/guardian of your child intends on taking your child to a country that is not a party to the Hague Convention and you do not agree with that travel, immediately bring it to the attention of your attorneys so that the appropriate relief can promptly be requested from the Court to prohibit this travel. Once an order is obtained, law enforcement can help to enforce it, ensuring that all options available under domestic and international law remain open to you. Requests as simple as asking for the child’s passport to go on vacation or visit family abroad can turn into unnecessary and expensive litigation if your attorneys are not aware of the potential implications of allowing your child to get on that plane.

The importance of consulting with an attorney who understands and appreciates the potential international aspects of your case cannot be overstated. If you are dealing with child custody issues, don’t hesitate to contact The Manely Firm, P.C. to ensure the path forward does not lead to trouble.

Felix Kloc