In California and across the country, most kidnappings of children involve not hardened criminals or ransom demands but instead one parent keeping the other from child custody or visitation. When a non-custodial parent takes a child without permission inside the United States, the situation can already be complex and volatile. This may be compounded if an international relationship is involved. In an increasingly global world, many people have partners who have multiple nationalities or primary citizenship outside the United States. People may even enter a relationship or have children while living away from home on a work assignment or educational program.

The end of a relationship with children can lead to serious disputes over child custody. These disputes can be even more complex when international laws and multiple jurisdictions are involved. In some cases, these international custody issues can cause serious problems, particularly when one parent takes the child from his or her country of residence to another country, often the parent’s home country. This may be an attempt to avoid a custody decision in the other country or exercise control over the child’s future. In some cases, the parent may primarily seek to avoid being stuck in a foreign country after their divorce or separation.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction is an international treaty. It has 98 countries as members and provides a clear mechanism to deal with claims of child abduction from one country to another, usually in cases of disputed custody. Signatory nations are required to return children to their usual residence promptly in case of abduction.

Cross-border relationships can bring many benefits to people’s lives, but there can be serious legal complications after a break-up. A family law attorney may be able to help a parent dealing with an international abduction or child custody violation.