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International Enforcement of Child Custody and Visitation Rights

Child custody and visitation issues can be difficult and emotional under the best of circumstances. When one or both parties have moved to another country, the situation becomes much more complicated. There are two circumstances in which foreign nations may be involved in child custody and visitation disputes. The first is when a parent takes the child out of the U.S. as a matter of right or by agreement of the parties. The other is when one parent abducts or otherwise removes or retains the child from the country wrongfully. Each type of situation presents its own set of obstacles and challenges.

Lawful international relocation

If there is a custody and visitation order in effect, a parent with full or primary custody can ask for permission from the original court to relocate overseas with the child. If the court grants the request, it usually will include appropriate visitation orders despite the long-distance move.

Problems sometimes arise when the custodial parent fails to comply with the orders. The parent in the United States is left in the unenviable position of trying to enforce the orders of an American court in another country. Whether enforcing the order is possible depends on the individual circumstances of each case. Some countries and courts will honor an order of a U.S. court and others won’t. The U.S. has not ratified the 1996 Hague Convention on the Protection of Children that precludes its child custody decrees from being recognized and enforced in a foreign country. A foreign court will sometimes refuse to recognize a U.S. order even if the duty to honor the order is written into that country’s laws. Enforcing orders abroad is full of potential pitfalls. Anyone having an international custody/visitation issue should immediately seek the guidance from a qualified international child custody lawyer as soon as possible.

Child abduction or kidnapping

In some instances, a parent simply takes a child out of the country without legal authority. In these cases, the aggrieved parent may be able to get the child returned to the U.S. Many countries are signatories to the Hague Convention, an international treaty that allows a parent to petition a sovereign nation for the return of a child wrongfully taken to another country that is a signatory to the treaty. Depending on the country, there may be other remedies available to a parent whose child has been abducted.

Whether a parent takes a child abroad legally or illegally, the best way to prevent losing custody or visitation is preparation. A parent should make sure that any existing court orders put strong pre-conditions on overseas travel and limit access to the child’s passport and other essential documents. Also, the non-custodial parent should collect, keep and secure any evidence showing that long-distance relocation is not in the child’s best interests.

Based in Miami, the Law Offices of Lawrence S. Katz, P.A. is one of South Florida’s most respected international family law firms and Mr. Katz is often retained as co-counsel or as an expert to testify before the court or to write an affidavit to be presented abroad. If you have a divorce or custody case that involves relocation of a child abroad, we are ready to help you. Feel free to contact us online or call 305-670-8656 for an initial consultation.

Lawrence  S.  Katz Attorney Photo
Lawrence S. Katz

For many years, Lawrence S. Katz has helped clients in Florida, throughout the United States and abroad. He has earned an excellent worldwide reputation for providing knowledgeable, quality representation in family law matters.

Client Reviews
  • "Attorney Katz has a keen sense for understanding the overall situation and immediately formulating an action plan. He is direct, succinct and effective. I highly recommend Attorney Katz for his experience, integrity and results!" - Vivian

  • "Mr. Katz is the best divorce lawyer in the Miami area. Very knowledgeable and experienced. We had a difficult case and he delivered impressive result. His assistant Fanny it is a great asset to that office as well." - Georgette

  • "My case was a complex one and Mr. Katz provided me with a course of action that led to a favorable outcome. He is clearly knowledgeable and experienced but he is also very prompt. He is always available to answer questions via email, Skype or phone. As an overseas client this was very important to me. I would definitely recommend Mr. Katz especially for international divorce and custody cases." - Anonymous

  • "I am extremely grateful to have had Larry represent me. In International Family Law I would say he has few, if any, equals." - Anonymous

  • "This divorce lawyer is excellent, charismatic, professional, and cares about the customer. I gave a case to him that it was impossible to solve, and he did solved the problem like it was very simple. He was always in touch and answering all my questions, either by phone or by email." - Manjit

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