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What do I do if my ex takes our child out of the country?

Surely there are fewer scarier feelings than when you realize your ex-spouse has left the country with your child. You may feel as though there is no one to help you, including local law enforcement. Whom do you turn to?

The first thing to do is to speak to a lawyer who has handled international child abduction cases in the past. Make no mistake: If your ex has taken the children out of the country without the permission of the court, then he or she has abducted your child.

The Hague Convention provides for the immediate return of children who were taken in violation of custody rights. If it has been more than year since the children were taken, then the parent can try to prove they are settled now and should not be returned.

In some cases, the parent who removed the children will try to use the country's court to gain custody, which can only magnify difficulties. You and your attorney will need to contact the Office of Children's Issues at the U.S. State Department. It is here that you will file a "petition for return" under the protection of the Hague Convention. The filing will be sent to the central authority for the other country and the case will be heard in that country. You will also need to find an attorney who can represent you in that country. Hague Convention cases are not heard in the country where the children were taken from, but in the country where they were taken to.

As you can see, these can be very complex cases. If the children were taken to a country that doesn't recognize the Hague Convention Treaty, your case will become even more complicated. Your attorney can provide more information on how to proceed and what must be done to get your children back.

Source: American Bar, "International Child Custody Cases," John Crouch, accessed Dec. 18, 2015

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