International Issues: What Happens If Your Spouse Leaves the Country with Your Child?


International parental kidnapping – it’s every parent’s worst nightmare. You come home from a long and hard day at the office, only to discover that the unthinkable has happened – your foreign-born spouse has left the country and taken your child out of the country with them.

Unfortunately, this is a situation that can happen when a marriage is on the verge of ending. Some parents take the children and leave the state but others, especially if they are citizens of another country, take the children abroad to prevent the other parent from getting custody.

While the number of international parental kidnapping cases is small compared to domestic ones, they are generally much more difficult to resolve due to the various (and sometimes conflicting) international jurisdictions. 
In one well-known case, New Jersey resident David Goldman spent years fighting to be reunited with his son after his wife took the boy to her native Brazil and then refused to return. After she remarried and died there, the boy’s stepfather and maternal grandparents attempted to keep him, but after a highly publicized legal tug-of-war, the Brazilian Supreme Court ultimately returned him to his father’s custody.

Understanding the Hague Convention

The Hague Convention is an international treaty that covers child custody matters across international borders. It applies throughout the US and, as of 2019, approximately 97 other countries that are signatories.
Its primary intention is to preserve whatever custody arrangement existed before the child’s removal and enable the return of minors under the age of 16 who have been taken from their country of habitual residence and or wrongfully held in a contracting country where they do not habitually live. 

The International Parental Kidnapping Act

 Another law that governs international child custody is the International Parental Kidnapping Act (IPKA), which makes it a federal offense to remove a child from the US without the appropriate permission or authority. It gives the FBI concurrent jurisdiction to investigate wrongful removals and use their international offices (which cover approximately 200 counties) to help parents reunite with their children.
What makes international child abduction cases so difficult is that not all host nations recognize the authority of the US government, especially if they are not signatories to the Hague Convention. If you need help with an international parental kidnapping case, you should immediately seek assistance from a Georgia child custody attorney with experience in both domestic and international family law.

Consult a Georgia Child Custody Attorney

At Atlanta Family & Immigration Law, our family law team has supported parents in custody cases involving the removal of their child from the US to a foreign country. Our clients benefit from our in-depth understanding of international child custody law and our years of experience in handling these complex and emotional cases. We encourage you to act quickly, as the Hague Convention no longer applies after one year has passed since your child’s wrongful removal. To schedule a consultation with Attorney Judith Delus, contact us today.