"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.The Convention does not act as an extradition treaty, nor does it purport to adjudicate the merits of a custody dispute. It is a civil remedy designed to preserve the status quo by returning an abducted child to the country of his or her 'habitual residence' and allowing the judicial authorities in that country to adjudicate the merits of a custody dispute. As such, the proceeding is brought in the country to which the child was abducted or in which the child is retained. Although domestic relations involve issues typically governed by state law, the federal statute implementing the Hague Convention explicitly confers jurisdiction on the federal courts. Federal courts continue to address the scope of this jurisdiction. In 'Chafin v. Chafin', the U.S. Supreme Court found that a child's return to her country of habitual residence does not render an appeal moot. In other words, an appellate court retains jurisdiction to review a lower court's decision as to the child's habitual residence."
CRS Report for Congress, RS21261