How to Resolve an International Child Custody Dispute

How to Win an International Custody Battle & Get Your Children Back

Young boy playing with moving boxes
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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, international marriages are on the rise1. And while that's no surprise in today's global society, the increase in relationships that cross international borders has also led to an uptick in international child custody disputes. If you're in this situation right now, or you fear that your ex could take your children out of the country against your will, you need to know how various child custody laws and statues can protect your children and help you resolve an international custody battle quickly and safely:

How to Get Your Children Back During an International Custody Dispute

  1. Consult a family law attorney with experience resolving international child custody cases. He or she will be able to represent your interests across international borders and help to ensure fair and timely court proceedings. In some cases, an experienced attorney can also help determine where your ex currently lives and proactively negotiate to secure the prompt, voluntary, and safe return of your children.

  2. Become familiar with the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, also known as the Hague Convention. This international treaty exists to protect kids from international abductions. It applies only in jurisdictions that have signed the convention, and its reach is limited to children ages 16 and under. Essentially, the Hague Convention helps families more quickly revert back to their original or "status quo" child custody arrangement, prior to the unlawful relocation of the children. If your ex has taken your children out of the country against your will, the Hague Convention can help you get them back.

  1. Most U.S. states have adopted the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act (UCAPA), which offers protections to parents who are concerned about the possibility of custody-related parental abduction. If you already have a child custody order in place, or you have a custody hearing coming up, you can file a petition under the UCAPA to address your specific concerns. This allows the judge to put limits on your ex's ability to leave the country with your kids in tow.

  1. Try to  maintain a positive and cohesive relationship with your children, despite the distance. For example:

    • Send pictures, letters, and money.
    • If possible, call and video chat regularly.
    • Do anything that will help strengthen the bond between you and your children.
  2. Consider the fact that you might have to move to the foreign jurisdiction until the matter is resolved, since the court process may be quite lengthy.

Factors to Consider When Dealing with a Foreign Court 

In addition to the actual laws and whether the jurisdiction you're dealing with is part of the Hague Convention, you'll want to consider whether there are cultural or religious beliefs that could impact your case. For example, some international jurisdictions may have a preference for granting sole physical custody mothers. Similarly, judges in other regions may lean toward granting custody to fathers in these types of cases. Knowing about these issues up front can help you more effectively prepare for your case.

Consider Relocating While You Work to Get Your Children Back

International custody disputes are very difficult to navigate for parents, attorneys, and government officials. While unfortunate, you may need to consider temporarily moving to the country where your children have been relocated until the matter is resolved, since international child custody cases can be quite lengthy.


Edited by Jennifer Wolf.


1"Married-Couple Households by Nativity Status: 2011." United States Census Bureau, Sept. 2013, Accessed 21 Jan. 2017.