Child custody cases in California can become extraordinarily complicated when one parent takes the child to a foreign country. According to the U.S. State Department, there are at least 1,000 reports of international child abduction by a parent every year. Because resolving these cases requires cooperation between two governments, most of the children are never returned to the United States.

After the Hague Conference on Private International Law in 1980, 93 countries signed an agreement to work together to solve international child custody disputes. However, the U.S. State Department says that only half of the children who are abducted to a country that signed onto the applicable Hague Convention end up being returned home.

Despite the logistical difficulties inherent in international child custody cases, there have been some successful returns. In 2009, a father was able to reunite with his son who had been abducted to Brazil by his mother five years before. In an effort to prevent international child abductions, Congress approved a bill in July 2014 that would require the U.S. Department of State to create a yearly report of countries where there had been international parental abductions. The legislation also includes a schedule of actions that range from unofficial complaints to economic sanctions.

A parent who has lost contact with their child after an international parental abduction may want to get help from an attorney who may be able to help the client to set a course of action for pursuing the return of their child and the enforcement of a child custody order. In many cases, the parent who violated a child custody order and brought their child to a foreign country will face criminal charges in the U.S.