International Child Support and Custody Disputes
An article in the ABA Journal this month focuses attention on the growing problem of international child support and custody disputes. With the advent of global travel and internet relationships, more and more parents are facing the challenge of enforcing child support and custody orders across national boundaries. Some parents describe experiences that sound like scenes from a James Bond movie, as their children have been abducted around the globe. International treaties have been helpful but are very limited in their ability to bring an end to such practices. The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction provides a mechanism to enforce custody orders and allocate jurisdiction in custody disputes, but only 82 nations have ratified the treaty. China, Japan and India are examples of major countries who have not ratified the custody treaty.
An international child support treaty (The Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support) was drafted in 2007. It has been signed by only one country, the United States, and even our Senate has not ratified the treaty. Child support enforcement remains a difficult problem for parents who exes have retreated to foreign lands. The ABA article cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Abbott as a hopeful sign that our courts will enforce these international treaties, but we cannot always expect reciprocal action abroad. This is one reason why child support agreements can be useful. A contract between parents may not be strictly enforced everywhere in the world, but it can be the “foot in the doorjamb” that makes a difference.