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Throughout your military career, you’ve no doubt encountered various challenging situations, especially in relation to your active-duty services and your family life. You may have already a military family care plan in place that helps you keep stress levels as low as possible when trying to fulfill your obligations in the U.S. military and provide for your children’s best interests at the same time.  

No matter how well organized you thought you were, however, nothing could have prepared you for the moment your former spouse took your child from Virginia to a location abroad and failed to bring him or her back to the United States at the agreed upon time. After you recovered from the initial shock of realizing that a parental abduction had taken place, you likely wondered how the situation could have happened and what type of support is available to help you find recourse.  

Jurisdiction is a key factor 

While your child’s permanent resident may be within a particular legal jurisdiction, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the courts there would have jurisdiction in an international custody situation. There are various laws that may impact a specific child custody case. Some are state laws, others federal, and another specific law plays a key role in child custody situations that cross international borders.  

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act 

Often referred to as UCCJA, this is the legislative act on which Virginia and all other states base their child custody jurisdiction decisions. The UCCJA gives a state jurisdiction over child custody cases within its boundaries but also allows jurisdiction to be exercised by one state when a particular situation intersects multiple states at once.  

Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act 

This is also a legislative response to a jurisdiction problem; however, the PKPA is a federal law, not a state law. In situations where both state and federal laws apply, federal law always takes precedence. This law also supersedes any contradictory or conflicting laws regarding jurisdiction issues in child custody situations.  

Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 

This law governs all matters concerning international child abduction, regardless of whether or not the situation applies to divorce. As a military parent who may have been serving on active duty when your ex took your child to another country and refused to bring him or her home, the Hague Convention would likely be a critical factor in securing your child’s safe return.  

Your right to custody            

The laws mentioned here only apply to those who have rightful custody of a child in question. If a court order exists for your shared or sole custody of your child, you can seek experienced guidance to determine how these laws might help you affect the safe return of your child. It’s understandable that you’d be worried and angry that your child’s other parent has taken action to keep your child from you. However, there are support resources available to help you seek rectification of the situation.