Interstate & International Child Custody Disputes

An interstate custody case may require an immediate and aggressive response from a team with the resources to respond quickly in multiple jurisdictions. In the past, each state had its own laws concerning interstate child custody cases. This allowed a parent to relocate a child to another state in an effort to find a more favorable venue. Since then, each state has adopted the provisions of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) as its own law, subject to minor variations. This limits jurisdiction to the child’s home state and other states having a significant connection to the child. Subsequent model legislation, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), gave priority to the child’s home state. The proper interpretation and application of these laws preserves parents’ rights while seeking a timely and safe resolution to this most frightening of custody disputes.

When a parent moves the children outside of the country before or after an order for custody and visitation is in place and disregards the order, it is considered an international child abduction, which is terrifying to the other parent and can be a traumatic event for the child. In these cases, the process for having a child returned is enforceable under the Hague Convention if the country where the children are is a signatory to it. This decision is welcomed by noncustodial parents whose children have been removed from the United States by custodial parents in violation of custody orders. Fifty-nine countries have entered into agreements with the United States for the quick and safe return of abducted children, but many, such as Japan, the Philippines, and countries in the Middle East and South America have not. Often in such cases, the custodial parent maintains foreign citizenship and relies on receiving preferential treatment in home country courts against a noncitizen parent.

Even when a parent has joint or sole custody, he or she cannot enforce a custody order without first finding the missing child. Once the child is located, local courts may be used to prevent or delay a return of the child to the United States. The longer the case drags on and the further entrenched in local culture and language the child becomes, the heavier the burden becomes for the parent seeking the child’s return.

Our team understands the need to act swiftly to locate and return children home safely. We have substantial experience in resolving interstate and international child custody cases and enforcing parents’ rights in New York and throughout the world. We work in concert where applicable with investigators, counsel, local law enforcement and courts, embassies and the State Department when negotiating and litigating custody disputes for the quickest and most favorable possible resolution.

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