Georgia parents who have gone through a divorce are often not aware of the complex ramifications of international, federal and state laws when a noncustodial parent takes the child or children out of the United States in violation of a court orrder. While courts generally take action to promote the return of the children to their nation of origin and enforce the original child custody decree, a Georgia court’s power may be restrained by a number of difficulties.
Many divorce and child custody decrees contain a relocation clause, which specifies under what conditions each parent may choose to relocate with the children and spells out the limitations on such relocation. However, when a parent takes a child, willingly or otherwise, across international lines, a simple custody agreement may become an international incident which strains relations between countries and limits what action courts at the state and local level may take.
The U.S. State Department reports that at least 8,000 international child abductions took place between 2008 and 2013. The United States is a signatory party with 92 other countries to a treaty intended to facilitate the repatriation of abducted children. However, one of the biggest problems with this convention is that the abductor must first be located, which is more difficult in another country.
In a case where a parent violates the terms of a child custody court order by taking a child across national borders, an attorney for the custodial parent may choose to notify the court that issued the original order about the matter. The attorney might then contact the State Department and law enforcement agencies to determine the last known location of the parent and child in order to begin the difficult process of arranging for the child’s return.