Custody cases are complicated enough as is; now imagine adding an international element to the equation. Money can ultimately be divided, but children can’t, especially when their parents live tens of thousands of miles apart. Be prepared to deal with the following custody issues if your ex is a foreign national:
Your child may already have dual citizenship. This typically occurs when children are born abroad to parents who are already United States citizens. Dual citizenship could expand custodial options, but also could lead to greater disagreement between parents. While the issue can be resolved in court, the potential for abduction should be of concern.
Determining Habitual Residence
Under the Hague Convention, a child’s ‘home’ depends on where he or she habitually resides. Unfortunately, definitions of habitual residence vary considerably between nations and even from state to state. Some countries claim habitual residence the moment the child arrives. Thus, custody proceedings could occur according to one country’s laws despite the child only residing there a few weeks.
Risk of Abduction
What if your ex isn’t happy with your custody outcome? The threat of abduction is real; the Department of Justice estimates that about 200,000 child abductions involving family occur every year.
Arranging for your child’s return can be particularly complicated when another nation is involved. In such cases, the Hague Convention is your best legal tool. This international treatise provides a legal framework for pursuing the prompt return of your child.
Foreign national status complicates child custody proceedings, but by no means makes a desirable outcome impossible. Early intervention is critical, however; without strong legal support, parents risk permanent estrangement from their children.
If your divorce crosses borders, it’s imperative that you work with a family attorney experienced in international law. Look to the law firm of Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd. for aggressive legal representation.