What is International Parental Child Abduction and Will it Impact a Child Custody Case in Pennsylvania?

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Where a parent has taken their child or withheld their child in another country and away from the other parent, this is known as an international parental child abduction. This can happen to the parent of a child living here in Pennsylvania.

In cases of international abduction a parent who is residing in the U.S. while the other parent has the child unlawfully in another country will have to look to The Hague Abduction Convention. This convention is a treaty that many countries, including the United States have signed. (This means that all U.S. states, including Pennsylvania and its counties have to follow the rules and procedures set forth in the convention.)

The goal of the convention is to return abducted children to the country in which the child usually resides because that is the country in which any and all custody disputes should be decided. For example a child abducted from Allegheny County and taken to a foreign country will have to be returned to Allegheny County for any and all custody hearings. Countries that have signed the convention are in agreement with this general goal. The convention itself provides countries with a framework to resolve international abduction cases.

A custody order from the U.S. is not always recognized in other countries. Italy would not have to follow a custody order from Beaver County. However, each country that has signed and ratified the convention is required to have a main point of contact for parents and other governments involved in these types of child abductions. This main point of contact is called the “Central Authority”. The Central Authority will help locate the abducted child, facilitate the child’s return, and those documents given to the Central Authority (such as a Pennsylvania custody order) are admissible in foreign courts without the formalities often required by courts in those foreign countries.

To begin the process of resolving an international parental child abduction, the first step is to file a Hague application. For parents whose children have been subjected to an international parental abduction in countries who have not signed and ratified the convention this process does not apply and unfortunately the process varies greatly depending on the foreign country involved.

To learn more about international child abduction or to speak to an attorney about parental child abduction that has occurred because a parent is unlawfully withholding the child in the state of Pennsylvania, contact our office today. Our knowledgeable team of family law attorneys have decades of experience in handling custody cases throughout Western Pennsylvania. Let us fight for your Children’s best interests.