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Will the Hague Child Custody Laws Affect Your Child's Summer Vacation?

Posted by Jonathan W. Lounsberry | May 21, 2018 | 0 Comments

Hague Convention and International Child Custody
Photo Credit: Jonathan Buttle,

A recent article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution illustrates the importance of knowing whether a country is a signatory to The Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction before allowing your child to travel to that country. It also illustrates the importance of knowing what remedies are available to you if a country is not a signatory to the 1980 Convention.

The 1980 Hague Convention seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return. The following countries are signatories to the 1980 Hague Convention: Signatories List.

The article highlights the story of Delmys Silva, a lawful permanent resident of the United States of America, who allowed her 9-year-old son to visit his paternal grandmother in Cuba. The child's father is now keeping him in Cuba and will not let him return to the United States. Unfortunately, Ms. Silva has now become painfully aware that not all countries offer protection against the international abduction of children by their parents or families.

The article states: “The website of the U.S. Embassy in Havana notes that ‘Cuba is not a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention), nor are there any bilateral agreements in force between Cuba and the United States concerning international parental child abduction.”

Ms. Silva's story illustrates a complex, factual situation that involves more than just requesting the return of a wrongfully retained child (e.g., issues of naturalization and residency); but overall her story begs the question of what remedies are available to you if the country in which your child is being wrongfully retained is not a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention or any other bilateral agreement.

Depending on the facts of your situation, the likely answer may be The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (the UCCJEA), which is a uniform law adopted by 49 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In simple terms, the UCCJEA offers a way to deal with abduction and retention issues by giving the left-behind parent tools that deal with both jurisdictional and enforcement issues.

Seeking the return of a child who is wrongfully retained in a foreign state is legally, emotionally, and financially challenging. If you are, or someone you know is, facing a family law matter which crosses international boundaries, it is critical to work with experienced attorneys who are well equipped to handle all aspects of the local/national and the international family laws which apply to your specific facts. Your attorney must know how different legal processes work in different countries. When necessary, our firm will work together with skilled lawyers in foreign countries to protect our client's interests in each jurisdiction. Our Senior Partner, Ben Stevens, is a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, which gives him access to the most prestigious family attorneys across the globe.

The Stevens Firm, P.A. - Family Law Center has provided exceptional legal counsel and support to families throughout South Carolina for over two decades, handling all matters of family law, such as child custody, child support, and divorce. We are well-equipped to handle all divorce and family law matters, no matter your circumstances. Contact us at 864.598.9172 to schedule an initial consultation.

See “She sent her two children on vacation to Cuba. Only one returned to Florida” by Nora Gamez Torres, El Nuevo Herald, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (May 15, 2018)

About the Author

Jonathan W. Lounsberry

Senior Associate Attorney


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