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When two parents in Virginia get a divorce and one has overseas ties, that parent might take the child out of the country. This could result in an international child custody dispute. While this can be a complicated situation, parents can take steps to protect themselves and get their children back to the U.S. if necessary.

Parents may want to start by consulting an attorney even if there is no indication the ex might take the child abroad. Under the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act adopted by Virginia, along with most other states, parents can file a petition if a custody hearing is ahead or if there is already a custody order. This can put certain limits on the other parent’s ability to leave with the child. If the parent has already taken the child to another country, the attorney could help deal with foreign custody courts.

Parents should familiarize themselves with the Hague Convention as well as the applicable country’s customs and laws regarding child custody. The Hague Convention, which applies to minors younger than 17, can help parents retrieve their children. In the meantime, parents should make an effort to stay in touch with their kids while they’re overseas. Some parents may need to relocate abroad while awaiting resolution.

Even in situations in which a parent is not concerned about an abduction, international child custody can be complex. If parents are in different countries, they’ll need to work out child custody and visitation arrangements in the child’s best interests. If they cannot reach an agreement, they might have to litigate. A judge might take several factors into account, including the child’s age, relationship with the parents and other needs.