A divorced parent in California whose former partner has overseas ties might have reasons to fear an international child abduction. The Hague Convention provides some protection against this if the child is taken to one of the countries that has signed the agreement. However, even if it is one of those more than 90 countries, there could still be complications.
A parent whose child has been abducted must file a petition in state or federal court. If it has been under a year since the abduction, a child who is under 16 years of age is supposed to be returned immediately. After a year, the child’s return is considered discretionary. However, there can be a number of complications even if it has been less than a year.
Some countries may favor the mother in custody rights. In some cases, there might be difficulty in locating the child. A petition might be denied if the parent claims the other parent agreed to the child’s removal, if the child resists being returned or if the child’s “habitual residence” is considered to be outside of the country where the petition is filed. If the petition is denied, the parent has a limited amount of time in which to file an appeal.
Parents who are concerned about child custody issues ranging from the possibility of abduction to wanting more visitation time may want to discuss the situation with an attorney. It might be possible to put precautions in place to help prevent an abduction such as requiring a passport application to be approved by both parents. A parent who does allow the child to travel out of the country with the other parent might want to write provisions into the parenting plan such as daily Skype calls to keep tabs on the child’s well-being and location.