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International child custody disputes may have gotten simpler

The greater Philadelphia area is wildly diverse, and people are moving here from across the globe. With an increasingly international and cosmopolitan population, there are more and more binational couples, or couples where one spouse is an American and one is from another country. Many of these marriages work out, but sometimes they end in divorce, which could lead to an international child custody dispute.

When a binational couple divorces, the non-American may choose to move back to his or her home country. If the couple has children, however, sharing the children every weekend just isn't possible. Instead, more creative custody arrangements have to be put in place. Sometimes, however, the non-American gets tired of the Pennsylvania court order and takes the child to his or her home country without the other parent's permission.

Fortunately, The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction governs these sorts of international disputes. The convention requires governments to search for abducted children and potentially return them to a parent overseas. Moreover, it dictates that child custody will be determined by court orders from the country where the family was living prior to divorce. The Hague Convention goes far to protect former spouses in binantional relationships.

Because the convention is an international treaty, countries can elect whether they want to sign on to the treaty. For a long time, Japan was holding out on signing the treaty, making it somewhat of a pariah in the international community when it came to international custody disputes. The Japanese government had a tendency to ignore requests from noncitizens looking for their children taken by Japanese former spouses. Starting April 1, however, Japan will be forced to follow the treaty's conditions following its recent decision to sign the convention.

Source: The Asahi Shimbun, "Japan finally signs Hague convention governing international child custody disputes," Jan. 25, 2014

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