International Parental Child Abductions [November 22, 2010]   [open pdf - 152KB]

"International child custody disputes are likely to increase in frequency as the global society becomes more integrated and mobile. A child custody dispute between two parents can become a diplomatic imbroglio between two countries. Since 1988, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction ('Hague Convention' or 'Convention') has been the principal mechanism for enforcing the return of abducted children to the United States. While the treaty authorizes the prompt return of the abducted child, it does not impose criminal sanctions on the abducting parent. Congress, to reinforce the Hague Convention, adopted the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act of 1993 to impose criminal punishment on parents who wrongfully remove or retain a child outside U.S. borders. However, the Hague Convention is not always applicable in such cases. Signatory nations do not have to automatically return a child to his or her place of habitual residence, as discretionary exceptions exist that enable the child to remain with the removing parent. Also, procedures and remedies available under the Convention differ depending on the parental rights infringed. Courts must determine whether a particular order confers a right of custody or a lesser right of access. For example, federal courts disagreed on what type of right a ne exeat, or 'no exit,' order granting one parent the right to veto another parent's decision to remove their child from his home country confers. The U.S. Supreme Court resolved the circuit split by finding that such an order confers a right of custody, thus triggering enforceability under the Convention. However, it is important to note that this decision was limited to ne exeat orders. As such, courts will have to address which side of the access-custody line any other arrangements may fall."

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CRS Report for Congress, RS21261
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