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Child custody and international abductions

As Pennsylvania parents who have gone through a divorce may know, child custody disputes can often be contentious. In some cases, one parent, unwilling to share or lose custody, might decide to leave the United States with the child. According to the U.S. State Department, about 8,000 children were removed from the United States between 2008 and 2013 in violation of custody orders.

In one case, a New Hampshire woman took her then 8-year-old daughter out of the United States. She is now awaiting trial. In another, a woman left the United States with her 4-year-old son in 2004. She settled in Brazil and divorced her U.S. husband. She remarried a Brazilian citizen, and her new husband was granted temporary custody of the child. Her ex-husband mounted a campaign to have his child returned.

In 1980, the international community looked at these issues, and the eventual Hague Convention was designed to deal with ways in which countries could cooperate in these cases. The United States and 92 other countries are signatories to the treaty. However, due to different court systems as well as other geopolitical concerns, the mechanisms outlined in the treaty are not always complied with. In 2014, Congress passed legislation that is designed to put further pressure on nations that do not comply. The State Department is required to publicly post an annual list of the recalcitrant countries.

While most child custody battles don't result in an international abduction, they still can be difficult for all involved. A family law attorney might assist a parent who is going through one in structuring a plan that is in the best interest of the child and which can obtain court approval.

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