Experienced South Florida


When returning a child to their home country poses risk of grave harm, part 1

On Behalf of | Jul 6, 2022 | Child Custody, Parental Abduction, Visitation and Time-Sharing

People vacation in the Sunshine State from all over the world and many immigrants make Florida their home. So, chances are decently high in our state that a resident could enter a romantic relationship with someone from a different nation.

International parental abduction

Unfortunately, when a relationship between a Floridian and someone who moved here or with strong ties abroad sours, the legal issues can become thorny if the couple has minor children.

Sometimes the foreign parent takes the children to their own country without the left-behind parent’s permission or against a Florida court’s custody order. Or the traveling parent has permission to take the children abroad but does not return them as previously agreed or ordered by a Florida court.

Another scenario might be that a Floridian lives abroad with their child whose other parent is not American, and the Florida parent brings the child to the U.S. against the other parent’s wishes.

The Hague Abduction Convention

To help resolve international custody disputes, the U.S signed an international treaty that creates a legal framework for resolution when two member countries are involved. The U.S. and 100 or so other countries are currently parties to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“Hague Convention”).

The treaty contains complex provisions and procedures that apply to disputes between parents in different countries. Congress gave state and federal courts jurisdiction to hear parental disputes under the Hague Convention. We previously explained the Hague process in detail here.

Returning children to their country of habitual residence

In this two-part series, we look at a specific parental abduction issue under the Hague Convention that the U.S. Supreme Court recently decided in Golan v. Saada, in which an Italian husband asked a federal trial court in New York to return his son after his American wife had taken him from their home in Italy to the U.S. for a wedding and stayed in the U.S. with the child.

In part 2 of this post, we will discuss how the unanimous court dealt with an issue related to whether child could remain in the U.S. because returning him would put him at “grave risk” of “physical or psychological harm or … place the child in an intolerable situation.” Specifically, the court said that if there is a grave risk of harm, the court has discretion to consider whether there are “ameliorative measures” that might make return safe, but that it would “rewrite the treaty” to require analysis of “all potential ameliorative measures.”



The LAW OFFICES OF FORREST & Forrest, PLLC represents individuals in Fort Lauderdale in high-asset divorce matters. Daniel Forrest is board-certified family lawyer and mediator serving the South Florida area.

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