Child Custody

How to Navigate Child Custody Matters and the Hague

You’ve been put in one of the most terrifying positions possible – the other parent of your child has taken, or is threatening to take, your child out of the United States with no plan on returning. There are a million different thoughts going through your mind, so where do you start? The answer: speak to an attorney at Knies, Helland & McPherson as soon as possible. It is important to know that not all hope is lost, but timing critical.

The Process

Step 1

In the event your child already has a passport, it is critical that the United States issue orders preventing the other parent from traveling outside of the United States with your child. If your child has a passport and no orders have been issued in the case, the other parent will legally be able to take the child out of the United States. It is much more difficult to bring a child back to the United States than it is to prevent the child from leaving the United States. So, what if the parent takes the child out the United States anyway?

Step 2

You will need to contact an organization call the Hague. The Hague is an international organization in which one of their purposes is to enforce custody orders internationally. It is important to note that the Hague can only enforce custody orders in countries that have signed the Hague Convention – countries such as Mexico and the United States are signatories to this convention which means the Hague can enforce United States custody order in Mexico and vice versa.

The Hague will require that you fill out an application in both English and the language of the country in which the child was taken to. The Hague will also require that all pertinent orders in the case be sent to their office with translated orders as well. From there the Hague will process the information, and if they find cause, will issue the Order requesting the return of the child to the United States. If no cause is found the Hague will deny the application.

Step 3

Once the Hague issues the return order the order gets sent to the relevant court in the country in which the child is located. The court can then adopt the order as its own, modify the order with a hearing, or possibly even deny the order in its entirety. Depending on the country, the country may hold a hearing on the matter. It is best to obtain an attorney in the country that is executing the order. If a hearing is held, and the child is ordered to return to the United States, you must be there in person to take the child back to the United States. Be prepared and bring a copy of the child’s passport along with a copy of the child’s birth certificate so that the child may return with you to the United States.

The Takeaway

This is an extremely complicated and lengthy process – the one thing to keep in mind is that none of this will move quickly. It will become frustrating and time consuming but do not give up! If you, or someone you know, is going through a similar situation please call an attorney at Knies, Helland & McPherson as quickly as possible and let us help you navigate your way forward.

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