Articles Posted in International Custody Issues

Often juvenile immigrants to the United States cannot stay hear legally without going through the special immigration process to get a visa or ultimately US citizenship.  A program was developed by the United States which would facilitate juveniles getting their visa and status in the United States sped up.  The program is called the special immigrant juvenile status program.
This legislation is fairly unique in that it requires the state Court to get involved and examine the eligibility of the these foreign juveniles before they can apply to the federal program. To petition for SIJ you must have a state court order that contains certain findings, USCIS uses to determine your status. The state court may be called “juvenile court”, “family court”, “orphan’s court”, or some other name, depending on which state it is in. The court must have the authority under state law to decide on the custody and care of children.

A state court in the United States must decide that you are a dependent of the court or to legally place you with a state agency, a private agency, or a private person and It is not in your best interests to return to your home country (or the country you last lived in) and you cannot be reunited with a parent because of ANY of the following: Abuse, Abandonment, Neglect, Similar reason under state law. 

MIA the rapper from London, England is involved in an international child custody battler with billionaire Benjamin Bronfman. Their child is 4 years old and named ikhyd.  M.I.A threatened to take the child out of Brooklyn and head to Brooklyn.  The Couple was not married therefore there is no pending divorce in court.

Bronfman in turn had to file Paternity action in New York to restrain M.I.A from taking the child out of the State of New York. After she received a restraining order from the New York family court she immediately expressed her feelings on twitter.  “BEN you cant take my son away from me ‘The mother.”  Just because you have money doesn’t mean you have the[sic] right.”  This explosive tweet was later taken off her twitter accounty.  However, these type of comments on social media can only hurt her case for custody of her four year old child, Ikhyd Edgar Arular Bronfman.  Social media can be a very serious problem for people to use during a custody battle.  It can be seen as an immediate insight into the volatility of one parent and their overreaction to a Court Order and once the Judge gets hold of the public comment it often can be used against that parent.  M.I.A further went on to say on twitter  “WOW. THE BRONFMANS WANT TO TAKE MY CHILD AWAY FROM ME . WHAT KIND OF S**T IS THAT ? THEY NEVER SEE HIM.”

Obviously M.I.A is upset and feels a bit helpless about the court system working against her.  She probably thinks that she is the mother and therefore can dictate where child can live. He twitter has kept tweets up that state ““The mother is way more important for a child than the father imo. He should think about that. I wish u the best. x” said one supporter, “NO MOTHER SHOULD HAVE TO FACE THIS. A CHILD MUST NEVER BE SEPARATED FROM THE MOTHER,” says another.

Free-Scarlett-Johansson-Picture-300x225As it is has become apparent Scarlet Johansson has filed for divorce. Her husband Romain Dauriac is from France.  He does not appear to want to contest the divorce issue but seems likely to contest the Child custody issue.  He and Scarlet share a daughter who is a Toddler named rose. He states that he is the primary care giver of the child.  He further states that Scarlet is always on a film shoot and he has to make his schedule work for her while she films. Scarlet appears to be taking the high road according her statement to public.  She states that ultimately her daughter will know how her divorce went down.  Clearly Scarlet does not want to make any of her divorce issues public.  However, due to the public nature of her career how can she really argue she wants to make her divorce private when she is such a public figure.  Her statements about having a private divorce may be based on false hope rather than reality.

As far as the child custody issues go there appears to be a big issue with regards to international child custody laws.  As Romain is from france.  If both parties can agree as to a schedule of visitation and custody then the international child custody issue will not be an issue.  However, if Scarlet and Romain cannot agree as to any schedule, then who will become the primary custodian of the child, Rose will be a very important issue. And how that will be determined by the Court will be very factual sensitive.  The Court will have to investigate who partakes in the day to day upbringing of Rose and who can maintain that type of contact with the child going forward.  The law Family Courts use is the “Best Interest” standard.  There are many criteria the Court will assess and then determine what is in the Best Interest of Rose and who should she reside with.  The Court can also make a custody determination giving primary custody to a parent that does not live in the United States such as Romain.  Since France is part of the Hague Convention Treaty Courts in the United States can freely decide that a child can reside outside The United States without much fear of any risk losing jurisdiction.

Secondly, the Johansson divorce will involve some property issues.  As Scarlet is a high profile actress who makes millions of dollars for her movies it is apparent she makes substantially more money than her husband Romain who is a curator of Art shows in New York.  Normally there would be a very big Spousal support issue where Scarlet would be paying her husband Romain thousands of dollars of support for a period of half of the length of the marriage. But both parties signed a prenuptial agreement which probably contracted away any spousal support issues the couple might face during their divorce proceedings.  Therefore Romain probably will be given a much smaller settlement of any assets Scarlet earned during their marriage.

What is an international child custody issue? It is a custody dispute between the United States and another country.  Often a person had a child with a US citizen and has a baby in the United States or in a foreign country.  The child of the couple is either a US citizen or is a foreign citizen.  The dispute arises then whether the US parent is fighting for custody of a child who is a US citizen living in a foreign country or is not a US citizen and lives in the United States.  It is a complicated situation that needs a careful approach to resolve in the favor of the parent who is a US citizen.

If the child was born in the US and is a citizen and the parent is a US citizen the Court battle will be more easily won.  If the child is born out of the US and the parent is fighting for custody of a non US citizen child the battle for custody will be much more difficult to achieve.  There are internationsl laws under the Hague Convention Treaty that establishes international child custody laws. It was enacted in 1980 the protect children from being taken unlawfully from countries of their habitual residence. They often assess where is the child living during the custody dispute and what court is the custody action filed.  And in some cases several courts are involved in several countries.  The Hague Treaty states that the Country of residence will decide the custody dispute. Often this dispute can go on for years deciding who will make the final descision in this childs life.  What country is better suited to make the custody decisions for that child.

The legal term is subject matter jurisdiction and the California Courts. Under the Uniform Child Custody Protection Act California uses its jurisdictional powers to determine the state or country that might has custodial jurisdiction of a proceeding.  So for parties involved in a proceeding in California where one party is not a resident of California or the Child in dispute is not a US citizen, California will take jurisdiction and decide the fate of the case.

A custody battle that started in Ireland has led authorities to Michigan.

Angela Holmes, from Birmingham, Michigan, and her husband, Michael, had a baby girl in Ireland, Jocelyn. However, last year in 2011, Angela fled Ireland to the United States, using special U.S. embassy help to return to Michigan. Angela fled without her passport or a passport for the baby.

Michael, who legally has joint custody, filed what is known as a Hague Convention case. He demanded to have Angela and baby Joycelyn returned to Ireland to settle the parties’ custody dispute.

An interesting article published by the Huffington Post details the problems California parents can experience when trying to collect California child support from an ex who is a member of one of the state’s 103 recognized Native American nations. According to the investigation, some “tribal governments and businesses are shielding them from court-ordered payments, records and interviews show.”

The investigation was conducted by California Watch, a project of the non-profit Center for Investigative Reporting. Quoting the Chief Judge of the Hoopa Valley Tribe, it notes that of the 100+ tribal governments in the state “only about 20… have official child support enforcement systems in place.” State – and some tribal – officials express frustration with this situation, but note that since the tribes are sovereign nations (i.e. legally-speaking they are as separate from the United States as the governments of France or Japan) the state’s options are limited.

The article notes that the exact extent of the problem is difficult to define, since the state “does not systematically track which businesses, tribal or otherwise, honor support orders.” It is clear from the details offered in the article, however, that enforcement of California support orders can be an issue throughout the various tribal legal systems.

In a child custody case that will certainly be of interest here in Orange County, Mexican parents expelled from the United States as illegal immigrants and the two American-born children they were forced to leave behind were recently reunited in Mexico City after a lengthy international child custody dispute, according to Fox News Latino.

We usually think of such disputes pitting parents of different nationalities against one another. In this case, however, the Mexican parents found themselves fighting county officials in Pennsylvania as part of a complex custody dispute. According to Fox, the couple had been living illegally in the US for about a decade when Pennsylvania authorities moved to take their four children and place them in foster care.

With the couple’s two older children already in the foster care system they sought to return to Mexico with their two younger daughters who, unlike the older children, had been born in the United States and are, therefore, American citizens. The family were “detained by police in California as fugitives for not appearing in the Pennsylvania court.” The network adds that the parents “were eventually released without charges and deported to Mexico without their daughters.”

A Los Angeles man is taking Japan Airlines to court claiming the carrier “wrongfully helped his Japanese ex-wife leave the United States with their son, despite court orders that the child remain in California,” according to an account of the case by Agence France Presse.

The incident goes back to December 2008, AFP reports, when Scott Sawyer’s ex-wife Kyoko took their two-year-old son to Japan in violation of a California child custody order. Sawyer has not seen his son since. His chances of doing so are particularly bleak because, as the news agency notes, Japan is one of the world’s few wealthy countries that is not a signatory to a 1980 treaty requiring “the return of wrongfully held children to their usual countries of residence.” In addition, Japanese courts rarely return children to foreign parents in the context of international child custody disputes.

At first glance this might seem to be mainly an issue of child custody, rather than of

An article last weekend in the San Mateo County Times serves as a reminder of the difficult situation many fathers here in California and elsewhere face when caught up in international child custody cases.

“Basically, I’m getting doors slammed in my face,” Andoni Petroutsas told the paper as he detailed his struggle to enforce a California family law child custody order regarding his five-year-old son. Last August, a court in Santa Cruz issued an arrest warrant for Petroutsas’ ex-wife after she failed to honor its earlier California child custody ruling. Because she is now living in Greece (where she has dual citizenship with the United States), however, the order is effectively unenforceable. “There are not strong extradition agreements between Greece and the U.S.,” the paper notes.

According to the paper, the couple split up soon after their son’s birth. The boy has shuttled back-and-forth between his mother and father ever since, with the mother living in Greece for much of that time. Last April a federal court awarded Petroutsas full custody, but allowed the mother to take the boy to Greece for a “final” six-week visit, ignoring warnings from Petroutsas that she was unlikely to send him back.

A recent Associated Press article exploring the ever-complicated issue of international child custody cases touched off by parental abductions is shining new light on a problem that never seems to go away. As the piece notes, two of America’s most important Asian allies – India and Japan – are among the nations that parents and State Department officials alike have the most trouble dealing with. Neither country, the news agency notes, is among the 80+ signatories to an international convention designed to add some certainty to international custody cases.

According to the article, the two countries account for 300 cases involving “more than 400 children, opened by the State Department since 1994.” Here in California and elsewhere, many cases like these turn on international marriages that end in divorce, after which one parent takes the children back to his or her home country in defiance of an American court order.

With a new Congress scheduled to be sworn-in tomorrow there is a chance this issue may receive more attention. With Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives, Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey is scheduled to assume the chairmanship of a key subcommittee that examines human rights practices worldwide (the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health). Smith has long been the House’s most outspoken advocate of the rights of American parents caught in child abduction and international child custody battles. According to AP, Smith plans to introduce legislation to create an Office of International Child Abductions within the State Department.