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When you married someone from another country, the new customs and culture that your spouse opened up to you may have intrigued you. Perhaps you and your spouse traveled to your spouse’s homeland, and you were eager to raise your children with an appreciation of both countries.

Now that your marriage is ending, your spouse’s foreign roots are no longer so fascinating. In fact, you may be filled with fear, especially if your spouse has indicated that he or she intends to take the children out of the U.S. to live in the other country. Whether these are just threats or your ex has already left the country with the children, you have a complex and urgent situation on your hands.

Are your children still in the United States?

Virginia custody laws may not be adequate if you are dealing with an international custody case. If your spouse has not yet left the country with the children, there are legal steps you can take to restrict him or her from doing so. These steps fall under the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act. If you file a petition under this act, the judge who hears your case can take appropriate action to keep your children in the U.S.

However, if your children are already on foreign soil, you may have to invoke the Hague Convention. Those countries who adhere to this international treaty will work to locate your children and return them to you as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, you may want to take the following steps:

  • Do whatever you can to maintain contact with your children if they are out of the U.S., including regular phone calls, video chats and letters.
  • Study and learn as much as you can about the laws of the foreign court, including any religious or cultural beliefs that may influence your custody case.
  • Contact an attorney who understands international custody laws and knows how to apply them to your situation.
  • If your attorney recommends it, consider a temporary move to the other country to remain close to your children and to more easily facilitate a resolution to your conflict.

Separation from your children at such a great distance may be devastating to you. However, you don’t have to fight this complicated battle on your own. A skilled attorney with extensive experience mediating and litigating international custody disputes can be a strong advocate, and provide you with peace of mind and hope for a positive resolution.