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How the Hague Convention protects children

Pennsylvania parents who are divorcing a spouse who has ties with another country may be concerned about an international child abduction. The Hague Convention, which the United States is a signatory to along with more than 90 other countries, is intended to protect against international child abduction, but parents should act quickly if an abduction occurs.

Parents may file a petition in state or federal court, and a child who has not yet reached the age of 16 is supposed to be automatically returned if it has been less than a year since the abduction. However, in practice, this is not always the case. There might be problems locating the parent and child. The child must be "habitually resident" in the country where the petition is filed. If the parent who abducts the child is the mother, some countries may favor her in a custody dispute.

In some cases, depending on the child's age, a child may not be returned based on their wishes. The other parent may also claim that the child is at risk if returned. If a petition is denied, it is also important to act quickly. There is a 30-day limit for appealing in federal court.

A parent who is concerned about international abduction may require that any passport for the child be approved by them. Provisions can be written into the parenting plan to reduce the likelihood of an abduction. However, because a parent may want the child to have visitation time with family in the other country, the risk of international abduction may remain. If a parent does not return a child from a visit to a foreign country, the other parent may want to contact an attorney. International abduction cases can be complex and time-consuming, and some parents have had to contact their political representatives to pressure foreign governments for their child's return.

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