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New Jersey father fights to have son returned from Paraguay

A father in New Jersey has been trying to bring his son back to the United States since his ex-wife took him to Paraguay in November 2013. The case has languished due to a number of legal complications regarding jurisdiction and custody.

The South African-born father met the mother in Paraguay, and they moved to the United States shortly after their 2003 marriage. They separated in 2006, a year after the birth of their son in 2005, and they divorced in Paraguay in 2008. Reportedly, a Paraguay court gave the mother custody, and the mother and son traveled between the United States and Paraguay often.

The father attempted to file for custody more than once. The first time, he was denied because the child was under the jurisdiction of Paraguay. The father filed again, and two days before his ex-wife left the country with their child, a civil court had ordered her to relinquish their passports.

A 2014 law empowers the State Department to take stronger measures against countries that fail to enforce child custody rulings, and the Hague Abduction Convention also is sometimes applied in international child custody disputes. However, after growing frustrated with government channels, the father filed a criminal complaint against the mother.

This case illustrates the importance of ensuring that child custody arrangements that suit both parents and the child go through a court. Child custody may become particularly fraught if a parent is from another country, and there may also be a danger of a foreign abduction. A court order regarding child custody gives a legal basis from which further negotiations can proceed.

Source: NJ.com, "N.J. dad fights to return son from Paraguay: 'Imagine your son getting kidnapped'," Louis C. Hochman, March 6, 2015

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