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Mom faces uphill battle to bring children home from abroad

It isn't unusual for spouses to relocate after a divorce. When a parent plans to move to another jurisdiction or country with children, however, a court order approving the relocation must usually be obtained first. Still, every year, new stories about parents who ignore those legal requirements and illegally move children to other states and countries anyway make headlines.

Fortunately in most cases, there are laws that can help Tennessee parents get their children back in these situations. The most important such law for cases where a parent has illegally moved away with his or her children to another jurisdiction within the United States is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. But what if children are taken to a completely different country where the UCCJEA doesn't apply -- what then?

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction of 1980 is an international treaty that offers Tennessee parents a mechanism for returning illegally abducted or retained children to the U.S. Of all the nations bound by the treaty, however, only Turkey and Bosnia have substantial Muslim populations. As a result, the treaty is virtually useless in international parent child abduction cases involving other predominantly Muslim countries.

A mother in Kansas recently learned this lesson the hard way after giving her ex-husband permission to take their three children to Palestine for an aunt's wedding. The problem, of course, is that he hasn't brought the children and says he doesn't intend to. In fact, he claims the move conformed to the requirements of the couple's 2008 divorce decree granting him primary custody of the three children and allowing him to relocate with his ex-wife's permission.

The mother says the children's father only asked for permission to take the children to the wedding and even provided her with a fake airline confirmation showing a return trip had been booked. Unfortunately, the options for bringing her children back to the United States are now very limited.

What is there to learn from parental relocation story? If anything, it is to make certain you discuss any "innocent" requests to take your children out of the jurisdiction with your divorce lawyer before you agree to anything.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Ahmed Abuhamda, Accused Of Taking 3 Children To Gaza Away From Ex-Wife Bethany Gonzales," Roxana Hegeman, May 2, 2012

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