In today’s highly international world, with borders made more fluid every day because of new developments in travel and communication, a Pittsburgh child custody case can become global. What can make it even more difficult to work out is the lack of an overarching mechanism for enforcement. Unlike in the U.S., where we have the UCCJEA (a uniform child custody enforcement statute regulating child custody jurisdiction) if a child is taken to another state, in some instances a parent taking a child to another country cannot easily be resolved.
The United Nations took a step in attempting to enforce this with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Abduction Law. The Hague Convention came into force in 1983, and as of today there are now 89 nations which are a party to the convention. If a child is abducted and taken to one of the 89 ratifying nations, then the Courts of that nation will enforce the other country’s custody order and return the child.
The convention is based around the principle of a “habitual residence,” which is a factual determination based around the country where the child lived before the abduction occurred. The enforcement of this treaty means that an abducted child would be returned to their county of “habitual residence” and the Courts of that country would rule on the custody jurisdiction issue.
International child abduction is a big problem in a world with a multitude of different legal systems and governments, who enforce and favor very different things. The expansion and increasing ratification of this convention by additional governments means that there will be fewer places where parents can take children to prevent their other parent from exercising custody. Japan, a country that was long a haven for international child abductors (over 300 abductions of American children to Japan in 10 years), has just recently signed the convention, and will foreseeably be in full compliance by the end of 2014. This would have the effect of expanding custody rights to non-Japanese parents, and forcing those parents who abducted their children to face the music and return them.
As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said earlier this year, “there is an increasing number of international marriages and divorces… [I]t is important to have international rules.” The enforcement of the Hague Convention in increasing numbers of countries impacts Pittsburgh child custody cases, because it makes all child custody awards more likely to be enforced.
Contact our experienced team of child custody attorneys to discuss your case today!