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Military service introduces many Americans to the wider world, giving them a broader perspective and making America a wiser nation. It also makes for more international relationships and families, another great advantage that also comes with some big challenges.

A child custody dispute that is in any way international can be much more complicated and stressful than a purely stateside case, which can also obviously be very tough. The good news is that you are not alone, and you do not have to improvise your options. International custody issues have their own established rules, laws and procedures.

Children inside the United States

Finding a friendly legal agreement is best, but a true dispute is hardly unusual. Your full list of options depends on many factors that mostly fall on a kind of “decision tree.”

If you, your child and the other parent are all now in the U.S., you may think about preventing the other parent from taking the child out of the country. Once the child leaves the U.S., things may get much more complicated and harder to enforce.

States courts follow laws of individual states, and some have signed onto some version of the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act. There are also federal laws dealing with the issue such as the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act of 1993.

Children taken out of the U.S. without your permission

If the child’s other parent left the U.S. without your consent, there is a good chance this fits the legal definition of abduction. Here, the decision tree branches into two more possibilities.

Your child may be in a country that signed a children’s rights treaty known as the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. It intends to protect children by putting the decision in the hands of the courts in the right country. The aim is to return the child generally to the country that has been their usual home.

If your child is in a country that is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, the country probably still has its own laws dealing with someone who has abducted a child in another country and brought it to theirs. Often such laws are even based on the Hague Convention.