Issues in International Relocation and Child Abduction

The attorneys of Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield have decades of experience helping clients navigate the complexities of international child custody disputes. Based in the Metropolitan Washington D.C. area, our team is accustomed to dealing with a diverse, mobile international community and the family law conflicts that can arise when parents separate or divorce.

We have successfully represented parents whose cases involved taking a child from the United States to another country, or from a foreign country to the United States, in relocation and in abduction circumstances. Many such cases are within the scope of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This treaty, to which all North American countries and most European countries are signatories, was implemented to protect children from being removed and kept across international borders in violation of parental custody rights. We have also assisted clients in matters in which the jurisdictional rules of the Hague Convention intersect with those of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).

Another area in which we have helped clients is in providing expert witness services on the risk of international abduction by one of the parents, and the protective measures needed from a court order. We also have worked with clients who have a legitimate need to relocate with their children to another country, and in cases of establishment or modification of custody schedules where the parents live in two different countries. And our team regularly provides mediation services for cases involving an alleged wrongful taking or retention under the Hague Convention.

Relocation of Children in International Custody Matters

In cases where one parent wishes to relocate to another country with a minor child, the request will be carefully scrutinized by the courts. In particular, courts will examine the motive for the relocation, the past involvement of each parent in the child’s life, the conditions in the intended destination country, and the distance involved.

Our team has successfully represented both parents seeking to relocate abroad and those opposing relocation. Our experience in these matters enables us to advise parents on their range of options and the likelihood of prevailing, and to advocate effectively for them and their children.

International Parental Abduction and Kidnapping

The Hague Convention is not a substantive custody law. Instead, it establishes a procedure for determining which country has jurisdiction over a custody dispute. Under the Hague Convention, a parent’s request to relocate to a foreign country with a child should be heard in the court of the state or country where the child’s “habitual residence” is located. The Convention does not specifically define “habitual residence.” The term has been interpreted by courts as the place where a child is accustomed to living, where the parents demonstrated a shared intent to raise the child, or some hybrid of those two standards.

Once a Hague proceeding has concluded, and sometimes even during or before the Hague case, local custody lawsuits arise. We are adept at advising and representing clients in situations that have international custody issues.

Even in cases where the Hague Convention is inapplicable because one of the countries is not a signatory, we often can help with other protective measures.

International Custody Lawyers

Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield counsels parents involved in the sensitive and contentious matters involving the relocation or the alleged wrongful removal or retention of children in the international context. Our guidance includes frank discussion of any possible financial or criminal exposure that could arise in these matters.

Clarity in a custody agreement, or where agreement is impossible, specific provisions in the court’s custody determination, can help to prevent an international parental abduction. Our attorneys are skilled at crafting custody provisions that clearly outline parental rights and understandings as to the child’s residence, protecting against wrongful removal.

We invite you to contact Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield to schedule a consultation in which we can address your concerns about international relocation or parental abduction.