International Custody Disputes
Parents who are involved in a custody dispute overseas should find out whether the foreign country to which the child has been taken is party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Under the Hague Convention, a child who has been wrongfully removed from a parent may be returned to his or her place of habitual residence.
There are legal limits to the assistance that U.S. authorities can provide to parents involved in a child custody dispute. When an American child is abducted overseas by a parent, the U.S. Government's role is to help the remaining parent by locating the child, monitoring the child's welfare, and providing information about child custody laws and procedures in the country where the child has been taken. Consular officers overseas can issue a U.S. passport to a child involved in a custody dispute, if the child appears in person at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, and if there is no court order from the foreign court of that country barring the child's departure from the country.
For further information on international child abduction and the Hague Convention, visit the Department of State website at http://www.travel.state.gov/family/abduction/abduction_580.html or contact the Office of Children's Issues at 202-647-7000. That office also has copies of the booklet, International Parental Child Abduction, which contains helpful information on what U.S. citizen parents can do to prevent their child from becoming a victim of parental child abduction. (The booklet is also available by autofax service at 202-674-3000.) If you are overseas and would like information on this subject, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for guidance.