Possible Solutions

Learning About Applicable Laws and Solutions

If you are a parent whose child has been taken from the United States to another country in violation of your parental rights, the Office of Children's Issues is here to help you. We offer many services that you might find valuable during this difficult time.  As the U.S. Central Authority for the Hague Abduction Convention, we can help you file an application for return of your child through this civil law treaty.  If your child is in a country that is not a treaty partner, we can help you understand other possible solutions.  

First, please read the information on this page and learn about possible solutions to an international parental child abduction. After reviewing these options, we invite you to contact us.  We are experts on international parental child abduction.  Our case officers understand what works in different countries and are available to respond to your questions and offer a variety of resources.  In addition, we recommend consulting with an attorney.  Finding an attorney is usually an important part of resolving an international parental child abduction case.  

Q: I have a U.S. court order granting me sole custody of my child. Can I rely on my U.S. court order and remove my child from a foreign country without facing criminal and/or civil sanctions in that foreign country?

A: As a general matter no. Courts in other countries often do not automatically recognize orders from foreign courts, including orders from U.S. courts. Some countries may have a process through which a foreign court order may be recognized. In order to determine whether your U.S. custody order can be formally recognized by another country’s judicial system, you should retain an attorney licensed to practice law in that country. A custody order in the United States may therefore be ineffective abroad—even a U.S. custody order that grants you sole legal and physical custody of your child. The U.S. Government does not have the authority to represent you or otherwise participate in judicial proceedings in foreign courts.

So what does this mean?

  1. Consult with an attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction in which you would like your U.S. court order recognized. Finding an attorney is usually a very important part of attempting to resolve an international parental child abduction case. An attorney can help you understand what is legally possible in another country and what effect, if any, your U.S. order may have. Your attorney should also be able to advise you of the potential criminal or civil actions that could be taken against you if you attempt to remove your child from a country that may or may not recognize your U.S. court order.

  2. Attempts to travel to the other country and bring your child back to the United States could endanger your child and you. This is true even if you have a U.S. custody order. In fact, you could end up in a foreign prison. What you may view as your legal right may in fact be viewed by a foreign country’s authorities as an abduction. Therefore, we strongly discourage you from taking possibly illegal self-help measures to return your child to the United States. As a result of such self-help measures, you could become the subject of a criminal warrant or face other civil sanctions. In a Hague Abduction Convention partner country, you could become the subject of a return action in court under the Hague Abduction Convention.

  3. Even if your custody order from the United States has no legal authority in another country, it still might assist you.  Sometimes that custody order can be persuasive in a foreign court. The foreign court may consider it as evidence.  It can also assist you with pursuing possible criminal charges in the United States.

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