Duncan Lewis

Shepherds Bush Office

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Immigrating , Family and Housing

International conventions meant to harmonize legal disputes being disregarded and frequently evaded in case of child custody and child abduction

Date: (17 May 2012)    |    

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People who work or studies in a foreign country end up having a family with someone from a different nationality.
Though it’s good for international understanding it becomes challenging to the family courts when the relationship breaks down.
The question that arises is where the divorce should be filed, about the custody and visitation or if the custodial battle turns acrimonious.
With the increase in transnational marriages, international parental child abduction has become a serious problem that affects both individual states and the international community.
Parents who feel unfairly treated by the family courts may try to select jurisdiction which they feel would more likely favour them and take the kids into a new legal jurisdiction, thus activating a re-run of their custody case.
The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction was designed specifically to prevent such border-hopping between nations; signatory countries agree to accept decisions already made in another jurisdiction and to promptly return abducted children to their place of habitual residence.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child also obliges states to ensure that national borders are not used to prevent children from having contact with their family. Signatory states commit to ensuring the continuity of a child's life when a substantial part of it resides in another country.
Yet it is one thing to accept that is in the child's best interests to maintain contact with their family and promptly return home; it is another to actually carry this out.
While international legal conventions are planned to regulate cross-border disputes and harmonize legal proceedings, there enforcement is not always to the desired levels and are frequently evaded or blatantly disregarded. Although parental abduction has been defined as amounting to child abuse, the rights of the child are sadly often ignored in international abduction cases, with nationalistic posturing taking precedence.
Families living abroad are away from the steadying influences of friends and extended family, and may also slip through society's safety nets of schools, doctors, social workers and counselors.
National laws governing family issues must be adapted to the changing international culture and to reflect the ease of international travel and the transnational nature of many modern families.