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What if one of the divorcing parents is not a U.S. citizen?

On Behalf of | Jan 17, 2023 | Divorce

Divorce is a wrenching, complex unraveling for any couple. But if one of the parents is a foreign national, a whole new dimension of questions and dilemmas is introduced.

In the child’s best interest

Yet, in New York state, regarding child custody issues, the goal remains simple. The parents’ respective citizenship and immigration status are largely irrelevant. According to the standard, the premier question is: What is in the best interest of the child? This is what governs. This is how the court wants to guide the discussion.

Child-related matters include custody decisions, financial support, decision-making regarding the child’s education, medical treatment and religious affiliation, visitation schedules and relocation agreements. If one of the parents violates court orders regarding custody and support and then moves the child to a foreign country, enforcement of these court orders may crumble.

The Hague Convention Treaty

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Abduction, enacted by the United States in 1980, provides a legal fabric to manage what the law views as abduction. Its remedies are limited to returning the abducted child to their home country where the court can enforce the child custody and support orders that were originally in place.

However, the Hague Convention is of no help if the child has been taken to a country that hasn’t signed the treaty.

Foreign Reciprocating Countries (FRCs)

There are FRCs that have not signed the Hague Convention Treaty but do have bilateral agreements with the United States—to manage child support reciprocity. Child support enforcement across national boundaries—a high priority of the United States—can be done, just not in every case.

As harrowing as these concerns may be to contemplate, complications do happen. The guidance and vigorous advocacy of skilled attorneys grounded in international family law are a must for navigating this challenging terrain.