Technology has changed the world. Travel times continue to decrease and we can chat on the phone, by video or text in real time, regardless where the other person is standing. The world may be figuratively shrinking, but the world is still a very large place. International legal matters remain as complex as ever.
International marriages are on the rise, and moving to a new country is more common as well. When there is a divorce or child custody matter in the midst of a transnational move, it adds layers of complexity. Child custody relocations from state to state are complicated enough without crossing an international border. While it’s easier for a parent in another country to video chat or call their children, the simple fact is that it matters where the child lives and where custody is decided.
Start in Washington, move later
First and foremost, any parent considering an international move – whether it’s to take a job in a new country or to return to his or her country of origin – your marriage needs to go through the court in your current home state of Washington. Marriage laws in the US are different in each state, and atop of this detail, child custody matters that cross borders are guided by international treaties and the laws of each country involved.
When a parent doesn’t follow the proper channels, crossing a border is a very serious matter. It can even be labeled as abduction.
Always consider the child’s best interests
International treaties reflect the broad premise also used in US courts: the best interests of the child.
Crossing state or country lines adds to the stress on your family, but it doesn’t necessary hurt your child’s best interests. The key to an international case is to define quality of life, vital services you’ll provide for your child and how the relationship will be managed between two distant parents and extended families. Any parent who wants custody in another country will need to prove that it won’t hurt their child to make the move. Except in serious cases, the court usually favors decisions that grant both parents rights, which means you’ll need to prepare visitation and communication plans that meet everyone’s needs.
Complexity requires a deep understanding
It’s vital for anyone in a child custody dispute and considering an international move to start the process smoothly by following the law here in Washington. An early misstep will set a case behind before it even gets started. Because transnational custody cases are so complex with a variety of factors depending on each relationship, profession, and the potential new country’s characteristics, it’s important to discuss your case with an experienced family law attorney who understands international law and its many challenges.