Articles Posted in International Custody Issues

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.

I previously blogged about a few International Child Custody battles here. I also blogged about an Orange County child custody abduction involving Newport Beach native, Andrew Ko here.

Well, here is another international child custody story involving Boston native, Colin Bower. Bower has not seen his kids in more than a year after his ex-wife abducted his two kids to Egypt using forged passports after losing a custody battle. In fact, Bower has traveled to Egypt six times, enlisted the help of U.S. Senator John Kerry and the State Department and started a Facebook campaign in an effort to be reunited with 7-year-old Ramsay and 9-year-old Noor. This is truly heart wrenching. Despite all his efforts, Bower does not even know if he will ever get to see his kids again. This story is all too familiar.

As a background, Bower was granted sole legal and physical custody of Ramsay and Noor following his divorce from their mother Mirvat el Nady in 2008. Bower dropped the boys over to Nady for a visitation on August 9, 2009, with Bower scheduled to pick them up from her home a week later. However, on August 11, Nady boarded a flight with Ramsay and Noor using Egyptian passports bearing the name “Power” to get them on the plane.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday, May 17, 2010, that a Texas mother illegally moved her son from Chile to the United States during a custody dispute with the boy’s British father in the first test of the boundaries of an international child custody treaty.

The high court ruled that the Hague Convention on child abduction — aimed at preventing a parent from taking children to other countries without the other parent’s permission — demands that the child goes back to the South American country.

However, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the 6-3 decision, said Jacquelyn Abbott can argue in lower courts in the United States for an exception to the international treaty that could allow her son to stay in the U.S.

An important Supreme Court decision issued last week may have implications for Orange County and other Southern California parents involved in Orange County child custody cases that stretch across borders.

By a vote of 6-3 the court overturned rulings by both a federal district court and a circuit court and held that an American mother acted illegally when she brought her son to the United States from Chile in violation of a Chilean court order, according to the Associated Press. The child, born in Hawaii, is, like his mother, a US citizen. The boy’s father is British, but the family lived in Chile and the parents were divorced there. Their divorce order gave the mother custody. While the father had only visitation rights, he also benefitted from a Chilean court order giving him “the authority to consent before the other parent takes the child to another country,” the AP reports.

It was this violation that the father sought to enforce in US courts, citing the Hague Convention on Child Abduction, a treaty ratified by more than 80 countries, including the United States. In a dissent Justice John Paul Stevens, who plans to retire from the court this summer, argued that since the father does not have formal custodial rights the treaty offered him no relief. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, however, countered that “deterring child abductions by parents who attempt to find a friendlier forum for deciding custodial disputes” is precisely what the treaty was designed to prevent.