As the world moves toward becoming a global community, international relationships and marriages are becoming more common than at any other time in history. International travel for work or pleasure opens up the opportunity for men and women of different nationalities to meet, fall in love, and form domestic relationships. As with all relationships, some of these will fail, in many cases after producing children. Kansas, with a growing population of international residents, has many such cases. And while our state has many family practice lawyers, those with knowledge of international law and specific experience in international child custody are much less common.
Interjurisdictional child custody disputes across national borders require a different skill set and body of knowledge than domestic cases. Not only are many family practice lawyers inexperienced in international custody matters, judges are often unfamiliar with the complexities of international law that apply in these difficult situations, which frequently require working with consular officials and judges in the country in which the child is located .
It is not legal for a parent to leave the jurisdiction of the Kansas courts without judicial approval. If the child habitually resides in Kansas, a parent who wants to move to another country with a child must apply to a Kansas court to obtain permission and resolve any issues or objections of the other parent before making the move. Representation by an attorney who understands the perils and pitfalls involved is highly recommended, either when one’s children are being removed from the country, or when the parent with primary custody has life circumstances that require such a move.
Examples of Circumstances Involving International Custody Issues
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty that has laid the ground rules for handling situations involving a child removed from one country to another. The Convention has 45 member nations who have agreed to be bound by the terms of the treaty. The Convention doesn’t address substantive issues of law, but undertakes to return children to their usual residence for resolution of custody-related issues upon determining that a violation of a custody order exists. An experienced Kansas family law attorney with experience in international child custody matters will work to educate judges on the provisions of The Hague Convention and applicable international law and will encourage them to work with judges in the other country to have your child returned to Kansas.
If the child is in a country that is not a signatory to The Hague Convention, your attorney will typically contact the U.S. consulate and ask officials to conduct a “welfare and whereabouts” investigation to determine where and in what conditions the child is living and will coordinate efforts to put the Kansas judge in touch with judges in the other country in order to have the child returned.
Legal Assistance in International Child Disputes
Having a child removed beyond national borders is an emotionally wrenching experience that leaves many parents feeling frightened and hopeless, but help is available. However, because most lawyers lack experience in disputes that transcend national boundaries, you will need to be selective when choosing a lawyer to represent you.
We invite you to contact an experienced international custody attorney at our firm to arrange a consultation to learn how we can help effectuate the prompt return of your child.