International child custody disputes frustrate domestic courts


According to recent figures from the State Department, 7,000 American children were removed from the United States by one parent in violation of a custody order between the years of 2008 and 2012. This type of conduct or any other conduct in which one parent moves the children either out of state or out of the country in violation of a custody agreement is called parental kidnapping, and advocates say that that the United States is not doing enough to stop or discourage the conduct.

Many of the children who are taken out of the country never return, leaving the parent who remains to try to fight through domestic and foreign courts to compel the other parent to return with the children. This can be an uphill battle, since foreign courts often have bigger fish to fry than getting involved in a custody battle for non-citizens. At the same time, the State Department has not prioritized this as an area for diplomatic intervention, so little pressure is put on other countries to change their ways.

Advocates for reform are seeking to put this problem higher on the list of priorities for diplomats. One member of the House of Representatives has introduced a bill to provide the State Department with more powerful tools to address this issue and is urging those in the executive branch of the government to bring up the problem of international child abduction at high-level meetings with other world leaders.

Parents who are involved in a child custody dispute locally, nationally, or internationally face the same problem – they want to spend time with their children and the conflict is preventing that from happening. In some cases there are concerns about the wellbeing of the child or children that factor in as well. It is always important for parents to keep fighting to gain custody of their children, particularly when a previous agreement is being violated by the other parent.

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