Custody cases crossing international borders are not as uncommon as one might think, with parental abductions being more common than abductions by strangers. International custody cases create a unique and challenging set of conditions for parents and governments alike.
In 1980 The Hague Conference on Private International Law recognized international custody abductions as a problem requiring a worldwide initiative to aid as a solution. Currently, the United States is partners with 73 other countries under The Hague Convention. The goal of The Hague Convention is to protect children from wrongful removal and ensure their prompt return to their home country.
The U.S State Department has estimated that between 2008 and 2013, over 8,000 American children were abducted by a parent. However, only half of the children who are abducted to countries participating in the international treaty are returned to the United States, and children who are abducted to non-participating countries are rarely returned.
International custody cases bring forth many challenges, including diplomatic pressures for trade, foreign aid, and public perception make negotiating child abductions a delicate situation which some governments will shy away from. U.S Representative Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) has been working diligently to reform the way the United States deals with international custody cases. Smith helped bring about the return of Sean Goldman to his father in late 2009, after his 2004 abduction to Brazil by his mother.
In July 2014, the U.S Congress approved Smith’s bill aimed at preventing international parental child abductions. The legislation was signed into effect by President Obama and requires a yearly report by the U.S State Department listing the countries where parental abduction occurred the prior year. The aim of the bill is to shame the countries into action. The legislation also sets up a schedule of actions (private, unofficial complaint up to potential economic sanctions) and puts pressure on the State Department and Congress to act when cases of parental abduction arise.
Anyone finding themselves in an international child custody dispute should seek the services of a Fellow in the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. In order to become a Fellow of the AAML, attorneys must meet strict membership criteria demonstrating active interest and competency in matrimonial law. AAML Fellows are highly skilled negotiators and litigators who represent individuals in all facets of family law and are recognized by both the bench and bar as leading practitioners in the field of family law.
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Partner at John F. Schutz, P.L.
Representing clients exclusively in family law cases for the past 24 years, Mr. Schutz is widely regarded as a marital and family law expert. He is Board Certified in marital and family law by The Florida Bar. As a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), Mr. Schutz is committed to elevating the standards and improving the practice of family law.
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