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International custody cases present complex challenges

New Jersey residents may have noticed that some international child custody cases have been receiving publicity recently, including the case of a New Hampshire mother now facing charges for abducting her daughter and fleeing to Central America more than a decade ago. These cases demonstrate the difficult obstacles that parents and the U.S government face when dealing with international custody battles.

The U.S. State Department reports that at least 8,000 U.S. children were abducted and taken to another country by a parent between 2008 and 2013. Despite a treaty signed by 93 countries intended to protect children from international abductions, only 50 percent of those children have been returned to the United States. There are a few reasons for the low recovery rate. First, as was demonstrated in the New Hampshire case, authorities often have difficulty pinpointing the location of the kidnapped child. Second, even countries that have signed the treaty do not always cooperate in these legal proceedings. Third, the logistics of repeatedly traveling to another country can be difficult for parents.

In 2014, President Obama signed legislation designed to prevent international child abductions by a parent. The law requires the U.S. State Department to publish an annual report naming every country that received at least one kidnapped child in hopes it will embarrass them into action. The legislation also outlines a timetable of steps the government can follow to spur the return of abducted children to the United States.

Any New Jersey parent involved in a child custody case may wish to consult with an attorney. Legal counsel could help negotiate an agreement that is in the best interests of the child.

Source: ABC News, "Complex Challenges Posed in International Child Abductions," Rik Stevens, May 10, 2015

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