These days, it’s not uncommon for international marriages to occur. Things can get tricky with the involvement of children, and even trickier when the marriage ends in divorce. Because not every country abides by the same laws, it can be hard to know what you’re able to do in these situations. An international child custody lawyer at Litvak Litvak Mehrtens and Carlton can help you understand your rights and help you fight for those rights. Call us today at 303-951-4506 to schedule an appointment.
What Is a Custody Order? What Are the Benefits?
A custody order is a document that sets out the terms and conditions of who has custody of a child. The custody order also divides parental rights and duties, including:
Making major decisions about the child
Having physical possession of the child
Financially supporting the child
There are numerous advantages and disadvantages involved in child custody orders, depending on if a divorce is complicated or amicable. Some of the advantages include:
Protecting the rights of a parent who is already caring for and raising the child
Enabling a parent to regain custody of the child from the other parent
Enforcing a regular visitation schedule
Protecting a child from an abusive parent
Without a custody order in place, both parents may have to make decisions about their child’s health, education, and lifestyle. This can be incredibly confusing for a child and can cause even more contention between a divorced couple.
What are the Types of Child Custody Orders?
Presently, there are three types of custody orders that a court can issue to a family: temporary, emergency, and final orders.
Temporary custody orders dictate who cares for and houses the child during the litigation process. However, if parents can decide how to co-parent during their child custody case, they may not need a temporary order. In general, most courts still encourage or require temporary orders. This is especially the case for parents with contentious relationships. If a judge enacts a temporary order, it will stay in place until the judge ends it or issues a final order.
Emergency orders are essentially temporary orders issued rapidly. This type of order is most common in cases involving domestic violence or child abuse. In a child custody case, emergency orders require evidence that a child is in immediate danger. Once enacted, the judge will decide in a few weeks whether to overturn the order or keep it in place.
Final orders, also called permanent parenting plans, close a child custody case. The order generally specifies legal and physical custody details and stands until:
The child turns 18
Child emancipation, or in other words when a child is legally declared independent from parents
One of the parents proves to the court that the order needs modification
In many cases, parents will decide their custody arrangements and a judge will sign off to make it a final order. However if parents can’t come to an agreement, the judge will decide a final order based on evidence included in the trial.
Meanwhile, international child custody is often complicated due to differing laws in multiple countries. International child custody is generally the result of an international marriage ending in divorce. Sometimes in international divorce cases, one parent will wrongfully remove their child from their home country and keep them in a foreign country without the other parent’s knowledge or consent. Another common outcome in international custody cases is when parents try to work out an international relocation for their children.
If divorced or separated parents want to move their child outside of the United States, they have to file specifically for international relocation. There are numerous factors that go into a judge’s decision to relocate a child, mostly involving the child’s best interest.
How Do Courts Determine Whether to Allow an International Relocation?
When handling an international relocation case, courts have many factors to consider, including:
Cultural conditions and practices in the foreign country
Visitation difficulties from the other parent
The extent to which the foreign country would enforce visitation rights of the parent left behind in another country
Whether or not the foreign country is a signatory to the Hague convention
As stated previously, there may be scenarios where one parent wrongfully removes the child from their home country in an international custody dispute. If one parent isn’t aware of the relocation or doesn’t consent, it’s considered child abduction. Because laws vary from country to country, child abduction can be difficult to navigate. To respond to this issue, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was created.
What Is the Hague Convention?
The Hague Convention is an international treaty that covers international child abduction. Currently, there are 96 nations that adhere to the Convention, including all of North America. The goals of the Hague Convention include:
Ensuring that international adoptions happen safely and within a child’s best interest while respecting their rights
Ensuring that Contracting States recognize adoptions made alongside the Convention
Developing cooperation among Contracting States to prevent preventing child abduction, sale, or trafficking
To invoke the Convention in an international child custody case, a parent must abduct their child from their home country. The parent pursuing their child’s return must prove they were a U.S. resident and that the other parent abducted them. Additionally, the parent must file a custody action with their local court. The court will then invoke the Hague Convention if applicable. Under the Convention, the return process of the child should occur in six weeks or less.
Can You Enforce a Child Support Order in Foreign Countries?
Yes, child support can still be enforced if a child lives in another country with one of their parents. However, this process can be very difficult if the U.S. doesn’t have child support agreements with a specific country. Generally, all nations involved in the Hague Convention will also enforce international child support in conjunction with the U.S. If your child lives in a country that doesn’t have this agreement with the U.S., you will essentially have to ask the country to issue a child support order. This request can be very difficult, if not impossible, especially if the country doesn’t have child support laws. In order to move forward, it’s important to ask your international child custody lawyer if the specific country has an agreement with the U.S. or if they have child support laws.
Can a Non-US Citizen Get Custody of a Child?
In short, yes. There is no law in the U.S. or Colorado that specifically states that immigrants can’t receive custody of their children. This means that even if the U.S. deports you, taking your American-born child with you is undoubtedly your decision. As stated previously, the child custody decision ultimately comes down to the child’s best interest. Unfortunately, countless courts believe that being an immigrant equates to being an unfit parent. In fact, a report by the American Bar Association shows that many parents are losing their children just because of their immigration status. If you’re facing this unfortunate reality, it’s crucial to have an international child custody lawyer on your side.
How Can I Get Child Custody When the Other Parent Lives in a Foreign Country?
Another unique challenge that arises during an international child custody case is when an American parent wants to have custody of their child when the other parent lives in a foreign country. There are many legal avenues a parent can take if they are in this situation, including:
Contact an International Child Custody Lawyer Today
If you’re in the midst of an international divorce involving children, it’s crucial to have an international child custody lawyer on your side. Our attorneys will work with you to assert and maintain your custody rights. Contact Litvak Litvak Mehrtens and Carlton today for your family law needs. Call 303-951-4506 to schedule a consultation.