Arizona parents who are getting a divorce and who are concerned that the other parent might try to take their child to another country may not be aware that the Hague Convention covers international child abductions. The United States is one of more than 90 countries that have signed the treaty. The International Child Abduction Remedies Act is a federal statute that also covers the issue. Theoretically, when a parent in the United States files a petition in either state or federal court, a child under the age of 16 who has been gone for less than a year is supposed to be returned immediately if the other country is also a signatory. However, this is not always the case.
Elements that could delay the child’s return or raise questions after an international child abduction include whether or not the child is considered “habitually resident” in the country where the petition is filed, whether or not the parent filing has custody, and how long it has been since the child was abducted. Some jurisdictions might consider the mother’s claim to the child more significant than the father’s.
It is important to appeal quickly if there is a denial. Further complications may include trouble locating the child or the claim by the other parent that complying with the treaty would do harm to the child.
Parents who are concerned about the possibility of an international child abduction during or after a divorce may want to discuss their concerns with an attorney. It might be possible to write provisions into the parenting plan to reduce the likelihood of this happening. One parent may need the permission of the other one to get a passport for the child or to take the child out of the country, or a parent’s visitation rights may be limited.