Today the globalization of the world marketplace and advances in technology have made it increasingly common for American citizens to have relationships with people from other countries. As a result, international marriages have become more commonplace. When parents from different nations are going through a divorce, and one parent wishes to return to their home country, child custody will become a critical issue. Here is what you need to know about international custody orders:
A central piece of an international custody case is determining where everyone is located for purposes of jurisdiction. Child custody jurisdiction depends on where the child is living and has been living. In Florida, like most other states, the courts follow the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The UCCJEA states that a court will have jurisdiction over a child’s case in their "home state." A child's home state or home jurisdiction is going to be the state where the child was living with a parent for six consecutive months before the case started or since birth for children younger than six months.
Some other basis for the Florida court’s jurisdiction is that the child and at least one parent have significant connections with Florida, it is a more appropriate forum, and something called “vacuum jurisdiction” or default jurisdiction which is invoked when a child has not been in any state long enough to establish jurisdiction. Additionally, in an emergency concerning the safety of the child, the court may be able to exercise jurisdiction. The UCCJEA is usually applied when looking at cases where there are citizens of different states. However, it is also an important tool for a Florida parent who is seeking to establish that Florida is the court with jurisdiction to decide custody when the other parent resides in another country.
The Hague Convention
One concern when parents live in different countries is that one parent is going to take the child to their country of origin and refuse to allow the other parent to have contact with them. When a parent improperly removes a child from Florida, the courts will consult the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction ("Hague Convention") to discern if the foreign country's court can require the parent to send the child back. This law decides which country’s courts get to determine custody by looking at the child's “habitual residence.” Like the UCCJEA, a child’s residence for a six-month period is usually a deciding factor. The Convention was created to help ensure children who have been abducted are returned to their proper country. However, it is important to note that not all countries are party to the Hague Convention. Further, the Convention is only applicable to children under a certain age.
If you are dealing with custody issues where international law may be implicated, it is vital that you consult with an experienced family law attorney. At the Draper Law Firm, we understand the problems which can arise regarding international custody matters and have experienced family law attorneys who can help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.