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International Child Custody and the Hague Convention

Connecticut International Child Custody Lawyers

Attorneys take strong action against Hague Convention violations

Advances in transportation and communication make marriages between people from different countries more likely than ever before. Many of these relationships last forever, but when spouses or unmarried co-parents break up (and where one spouse is a foreign national), disputes over custody can become highly complex and contentious – if the spouse who is the foreign national wants to return to their country of origin with a child or children (and jumps the gun) without a proper court order.

Needle | Cuda’s attorneys have extensive experience with Connecticut international child custody matters and provide strong advocacy for parents.

These cases often fall under the 1980 Hague Convention, which requires parents to honor existing custody orders, even if the outcome might be different under the law of the country where a parent lives or intends to relocate.

The 1980 Hague Convention (Background) – International Child Custody

Adopted by the United States in 1980, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a treaty with approximately one hundred partners or countries that participate. The Hague Convention was created to protect a child from parental abduction and/or retention across international borders without a custodial parent’s consent.

Under the Hague Convention, procedures were put in place to return a child to their habitual residence (where the child regularly or customarily lives). It also requires custody disputes be resolved in the nation of the child’s habitual residence. In order for the Hague Convention to apply, both countries (where the child was removed from and where the child was brought to) must have adopted the Convention.

How do international child custody disputes arise?

There are several situations that could turn your Connecticut child custody matter into an international dispute. If your co-parent lives outside of the United States or owns property abroad, you might face a risk that they will take your child to that nation without proper authorization. When a couple’s marriage or divorce occurs in a foreign country, there might be a claim that custody issues belong in that country’s court, even if the child is a habitual resident of the United States.

Whether you’re engaged in a divorce with international custody implications or are attempting to prevent relocation, do not hesitate to consult an attorney with experience handling these matters.   

How to file a Hague Convention petition?

In order to file a Hague Convention petition, the following facts must be true: (i) your co-parent removed the child from their habitual residence; (ii) the removal of the child was considered wrongful or in opposition of current custody orders; (iii) the child was brought to or retained in a signatory country under the Convention; and (iv) the child is under the age of 16. Additionally, it is beneficial to file a Hague petition immediately following the removal of the child or at least within 12 months (the sooner the better). Provided the above requirements are met, we can assist with each facet of the application, such as establishing the basis of your custody rights and gathering evidence that the United States is where your child habitually resides. However, please note, filing a Hague petition is often a lengthy process and it’s imperative to have an experienced attorney representing you.

How to defend against a Hague Convention petition?

You also could face a situation where you are asserting your lawful custody rights and have to defend them against a Hague Convention petition. Our attorneys will examine the details in your case to determine what defenses are available. For example, your former partner might be misrepresenting the terms of the applicable custody order or the facts regarding your child’s habitual residence. If the alleged abduction or wrongful retention began more than one year before the application, it might be rejected for that reason. A parent can also seek an exception to the standard process if they can demonstrate that approving the application could put the child at grave risk or the child is over the age of 16.

How are Hague Convention orders enforced?

If your child was wrongfully abducted from the United States or prevented from returning to this country, you can go to state or federal court to enforce your rights under the Hague Convention. These proceedings are to be expedited under the terms of the convention, perhaps even as quickly the next day pursuant to the state’s version of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Whether you use the Hague Convention, UCCJEA or both depends on the specific circumstances. There are distinctions between the two standards. While the Hague Convention does not require a custody order and only covers children up to 16 years old, the UCCJEA applies to youths under 18, but requires a custody or visitation order.

Contact a Connecticut attorney regarding your international custody matter

Needle | Cuda in Westport handles Hague Convention issues and other international custody matters for parents throughout Connecticut. To schedule a meeting regarding your case, please call 203-557-9500 or contact us online.

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