Child custody disputes can be complex and contentious even if both parents live near each other and want to remain in the same city. When one parent is seeking to move a child to another country, or has already taken a child abroad, the complications can multiply rapidly.
Las Vegas is an international city. It is no surprise then that international custody matters arise on occasion. Depending on the circumstances involved, an international child custody dispute can involve both family law courts and criminal prosecution, if a child was abducted to another country.
International child custody laws in Nevada
The first question to establish is which court has jurisdiction over the child custody dispute in an international case. The U.S. is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This multinational treaty involving nearly 100 countries attempts to return a child to his or her "habitual residence" for the purpose of resolving a custody dispute, if one parent has taken a minor child without the consent of the other parent or the courts. The Hague Convention operates under the principal that a custody dispute is best resolved in the country in which the child habitually resides.
Nevada also has a series of statutes called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which allows Nevada to keep jurisdiction of a child custody dispute even if one parent moves to a different state or country. This prevents a parent from "court shopping" to get the result he or she desires.
Child abductions and kidnapping
It is against both federal and state law in Nevada law to forcibly relocate a child to another state or country without legal authority or in violation of a custody agreement. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, over 200,000 child abductions occur in the U.S. each year, the vast majority of which are perpetrated by a parent or family member of the child. If a parent does kidnap a child and move the child overseas, the FBI can issue a criminal arrest warrant for the parent who fled with the child.
A Nevada court can attempt to prevent an abduction by issuing an abduction prevention order. Under the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act, which Nevada adopted in 2007, a court can issue an abduction prevention order after weighing several relevant factors listed under the law. These factors include whether a parent has previously abducted the child or has threatened to do so; has engaged in domestic violence; has refused to follow a custody order; has strong ties another state or country; or has engaged in behavior that indicate a planned abduction.
An abduction prevention order can impose travel restrictions on one parent, for example, or place the child's name in the United States Department of State's Child Passport Issuance Alert Program, among other potential actions.
Contact an experienced family law attorney
Child abductions are taken seriously by Nevada courts. Nevada residents involved in an international child custody dispute should immediately contact a skilled family law attorney familiar with international child custody issues to discuss how to protect a child from abduction or to get a child back home.