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Lawmaker introduces international child abduction bill

Child custody disputes can be emotionally exhausting for Georgia parents, but when the parents in a particular dispute do not both reside in the U.S. things can become extremely challenging. This is because when child custody battles span international borders, there are questions of jurisdiction. In which country should the custody case be held? And, of course, the stakes are very high in international child custody disputes because a shared custody agreement or visitation plan would be impossible for most families.

In the 1980s, the Hague Convention treaty came about to help countries deal with international child custody cases. The treaty states that when a child is abducted by a parent and taken into another country, the child must be returned to his or her habitual residence and that is where any dispute will be heard. However, not all countries have signed this treaty, and the U.S. government cannot always enforce it. As a result, one lawmaker is pressing the government to enact legislation that would empower the government to recover abducted children who are living abroad.

U.S. House Representative Chris Smith re-introduced the legislation last week. During a subcommittee hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee a number of parents of abducted children testified about their experiences.

One woman said that during a family vacation in India in 2008, her ex-husband took off with their children, severing contact completely. Although she has been awarded custody of the children here in the U.S., she has not seen them since her husband took them.

A man who testified, a former Marine Corps sergeant, said that in 2008 his ex-wife took their children to Japan and cut off contact. He, too, was awarded full custody and the children were ordered to be returned due to the Hague Convention, but they have not been returned.

Neither of these two countries has signed the Hague Convention treaty.

Rep. Smith's legislation would provide the president and the State Department with several courses of action and penalties in order to help force the return of U.S. children who have been taken abroad.

This is an issue that is near and dear to the hearts of many families and it remains to be seen whether this legislation would be effective in resolving cases of international parental abduction.

Source: USA Today, "State Department pressed for action on abduction cases," Malia Rulon Hernandez, May 9, 2013

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