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When Arizona child custody issues involve international laws

Those Arizona couples facing a divorce understand how challenging the process can be, financially, emotionally and legally. Child custody aspects of a divorce add another layer of complexity, particularly when one parent wishes to, or simply does, move a child to another country. In such instances, international laws come into play and are applied in U.S. courts.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard just such a case, where the mother of a minor child took her daughter out of the country where they resided, without the father's knowledge. After searching for his daughter and finally locating her two years later in New York, the father petitioned the Court to return his daughter to him in England. In deciding the case, the Court had to look to an international treaty regarding international abductions.

The particular article in question stemmed from the Hague Convention and made clear that a child taken from her country of residence must be returned when a request is made within one year. During the one year timeframe, the Court has no discretion and must order the child returned. However, after the one year mark the return order is not automatic; the Court has the ability to use its discretion in determining whether the child should be returned or should remain in the country where she now makes her home. In the case here where the return order was requested after one year, the Court determined that the treaty's deadline could not be extended and declined to require an order of the child's return on those grounds.

This decision reminds us that Courts balance the best interests of the child while uploading the law and in international cases, with the need to maintain our country's adherence to its treaties. It also reminds us that although child custody cases often involve strong emotions, court decisions are made by judges interpreting the law, a fairly emotionless process. Consulting an experienced Arizona attorney can help a parent facing international child custody issues determine the best path forward.

Source: Washington Post, "Supreme Court says it cannot alter deadline set by international accord on child abduction," Robert Barnes, March 5, 2014

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