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Hague Convention & International Child Abduction Cases

Houston is an international business hub which results in a diverse population, many of whom are not American citizens. This can result in not only a child custody fight should a relationship end, but with the added stress of international travel or international living considerations. There have been several recent high-profile cases of international child abduction in the news, one notably from the Houston area. Given the risks, it is important to consult with a licensed family law attorney who has expertise in international child custody cases. There are many issues that need to be considered, including the following:


Under the Texas Family Code, a court would have “jurisdiction” (that is, the right to make legal orders by nature of physical proximity) of a child in the county where the child has been living for the previous six months. So by logical conclusion, if it is county specific then it would extend to that state and country that county is located in geographically. For example, if a child resides in Harris County, Texas then a Harris County family court would have jurisdiction over any divorce or custody case. And Texas and the United States would supersede any jurisdictional or venue issues over another country.

Forum Shopping:

Many parents with international ties may try to avoid having their case heard in the United States by sneaking their children to their home country. Some more conservative countries take a naturalist approach to conservatorship and will want a child with ties to that country raised there rather than the United States. This form of child abduction is considered forum shopping.

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Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act

In response to concerns about children in the United States with ties to foreign countries, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act was created.  This law addresses jurisdictional issues in both out-of-state and international cases. It directs courts to uniformly consider factors such as:

  • Where has the child been residing for the previous six months?
  • Would another jurisdiction/country be a better arbiter of the facts?
  • Are there any defenses available (such as fleeing a country due to political upheaval or physical harm/abuse)?
  • Has another court in the child’s home country already assumed jurisdiction?

Hague Convention

As of 2018, there were 98 nations that are signatories to the Hague Convention. The Hague Convention is a system that creates an avenue for (relatively) quick recovery of a child under the age of 16 that has been wrongfully taken to another country. There are many countries that are NOT a signatory to the Hague Convention, so you must check and see if your country of concern is included.

If a country to which a child has been taken is a signatory of the Hague Convention, then the parent from whom the child was taken may file an application for return and the Hague Convention should facilitate the return of the child to his or her home country. There are factors to consider, such as would the child be facing imminent harm or danger, and defenses that may be presented. Assuming none of those factors are present, then the role of the Hague Convention is to return children to their home country and family.

Tips for Dealing with International Abduction:

  1. Act quickly – Time is of the essence. Contact a family law attorney in your home county (where the child has resided for the previous six months) immediately.
  1. File first – It is immensely helpful to get your custody suit (whether it be a divorce or modification) on file first in the proper jurisdiction. Ideally you could get an order from the court requiring that the child be returned to their home country.
  1. Contact the U.S. Consulate or Embassy for assistance.

As you can see, a custody dispute can be intensely complicated and adding international concerns just adds to the complexity. It is vital that a parent dealing with an international custody suit or concerned they may have a future suit should consult with a Board Certified in Family Law Attorney with a history of dealing with complex international cases.  Mary Ramos is Board Certified in Family Law and has extensive experience with dealing with child custody cases involving international abduction or foreign parties. Contact the Ramos Law Group, PLLC if you are going through an international custody dispute or fear one is on the horizon.

Our Client Testimonials

Superb Law Firm

The decision to end my 25-year marriage was not an easy one, but hiring the Ramos Law Group was. From the initial consultation to the execution of the Divorce Decree everyone at the firm displayed the utmost professionalism and I was treated as if I was their only client. My attorney Lindsey, always provided precise legal guidance, was usually one step ahead of the opposing counsel, and had a superb understanding of how things would play out in the court room. Additionally, whenever my case needed a little extra horsepower, Mary provided that "surge" to keep things on track.

Worth Every Penny

"Ms. Ramos and her entire staff worked with professionalism and compassion to guide me through the most difficult time of my life and to an outcome that was best for my family and myself. Ramos Law is incredible and I highly, highly recommend their services."

Custody case won

"I was recommended to see Mary Ramos for my on coming custody case,it was the best thing I could've done honestly.The Ramos law group was quick with emailed responses and telephone calls,informative with ANY questions I had and they also took action with what they thought would work,which it did,I had money troubles and they were still willing to help they sent me with a younger lawyer Lindsey Lewis to help save some money and she was the best!She knew what she was doing and Mary was still on my case to make sure things went smoothly and to catch any details Lindsey and I might have missed.All in all I am a very satisfied client and if I ever needed a family lawyer again I would come back.My case was won as I received primary for my daughter which is exactly what I asked for.If you're willing to listen to what they have to say and follow their guidance they're definitely worth hiring.I thought I wanted sole custody for my daughter and they explained that wasn't in the best interest for her and honestly they were right,they speak to you on a professional level and also a real level of how things are actually going to work and what could happen if you take a certain action.They definitely care about their clients and make their own bond with you,you're not just money in their pockets you turn into family. "

Divorce Attorney

"I received excellent advice and representation from Ms. Lindsey Lewis. She kept me updated at every step of the process, and I never felt as if my case was set aside. I would hire The Ramos Law Group in the future. "

Highly recommend

"I started my divorce with a lawyer who was not very responsive. My divorce case was complicated and needed more laborious scrutiny. Since the case was not moving forward I had to switch lawyers. Made the switch to Ramos Law group. Since the very first day Mary and her team have been very efficient and meticulous. Since the case was complicated the team had to go through myriads of pages in discovery. I was pleased with the legal team that helped us handle the paperwork in a very timely manner. All my questions were answered very promptly. The relay of information was easy with their software system. We finally had a law firm that we could trust. My divorce was finalized and I only have Mary and her team to thank for going through a difficult divorce. I would highly recommend the Ramos law group for their help and support for getting my life back on track. "

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