Law Office of Daniel E. Forrest, P.A.

A new bill sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith might offer hope to parents involved in international custody battles. The new bill focuses on providing the State Department with more power through the use of diplomatic tools to help so-called 'left-behind" parents resolve custody situations in other countries where American legislation might not be recognized.

For many parents involved in child custody battles, the toughest part has been when the other parent has taken the children to other countries, where the court mandated custody agreements are not recognized or followed. According to State Department statistics, 7,000 children were taken by a parent to stay in a foreign country between 2008 and 2012. Most of those children did not return. Once the problem becomes an international custody issue, the left-behind parent often faces challenges that can be almost impossible to overcome, particularly if the child was taken to a country that has not signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The bill requires that presidents and ambassadors, for example, take specific actions, including private requests and economic sanctions, to help solve international abduction cases. The bill depends on completed statistics that the State Department does not have ready. The State Department would also have to sign new agreements with countries that have not signed the Hague Convention though a department spokesperson argues that these separate agreements do not work.

Custody cases can be tough, drawn-out and emotionally painful for the children and the adults involved. When one of the parents decides to ignore court rulings and remove the children to another country, the case becomes even more complicated. This bill might be able to help the left-behind parents and their lawyers since they might be able to then count on the support of the State Department to help intervene in the process on foreign territory.

Source: North Jersey, "Bill may help 'left-behind parents' in global child custody fights ", Herb Jackson, December 11, 2013

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