International Child Custody
Some families are surprised to realize that Colorado courts can make orders related to parental responsibilities, custody, and child support for children from other countries who reside in the state. However, international custody disputes are complicated and often involve the application of international laws. Colorado has enacted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), as many other states have. Other relevant laws in these matters include the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act. If you are dealing with a dispute in this complex area, the Denver child custody lawyers at Plog & Stein, P.C. may be able to help. Let us put our decades of child custody experience to work for you.
Laws Governing International Child Custody Disputes
The UCCJEA determines which state has jurisdiction or official power to make legal decisions related to a case in connection with the care and control of a child, including how parental responsibilities are allocated. There are various grounds for jurisdiction.
In Colorado, a court may enter or modify parenting orders under the UCCJEA when:
- Colorado was the child’s home state for six months prior to the filing of the custody action;
- The child is under six months old, Colorado was the home state during their life, and a parent still lives in Colorado;
- No other state has jurisdiction;
- The child’s home state has decided not to exercise its jurisdiction because Colorado is more convenient and there is a significant connection between the child and the state;
- Colorado first entered parenting orders, or either the parent or the child has lived continuously in Colorado during the time since the parenting orders; or
- The child is physically in Colorado and was abandoned or is subject to another emergency that creates temporary emergency jurisdiction. For example, temporary emergency jurisdiction might be appropriate if a child and parent in Colorado have been subjected to severe physical abuse by a parent in Canada.
Often, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction also has an impact on an international child custody dispute. The Convention addresses situations when a child is supposedly wrongfully removed from their country of residence to a different country. It applies only if both countries involved have signed and ratified it. The country to which the child was taken is supposed to honor the first country’s custody arrangement and return the child, except if a court in the country where the child has been taken finds that the child is seriously at risk of psychological or physical harm or otherwise intolerable circumstances.
If a divorce is pending or has just taken place, a parent may fear that a parent who is a foreign national or has significant ties to another country will abduct the child or take them out of the country without consent or in violation of court orders. They may also be concerned that a child will be wrongfully retained in another state or country during their visitation with the other parent.
The Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act was enacted to protect children from being abducted or kidnapped and to strengthen the UCCJEA by permitting a court to put into place certain protective measures before and after it determines parental responsibilities. These measures may include imposing travel restrictions, providing detailed descriptions of each parent’s custody and visitation rights, identifying a child’s habitual residence, implementing penalties for any violations of visitation or custody, reviewing the reasons for a potential abduction, and considering other matters like the potential harm to a child from an abduction or the legal difficulties of returning the abducted child.
Keep in mind that for children with U.S. citizenship to travel abroad they will need passports. Getting passports will require either the consent of both parents or a court order granting authority to one parent to obtain them. Thus, some protections may be available to prevent a parent from just leaving with a child. Cases of international flight with a child by one parent are rare but can arise. Knowing there are legal options available to aid in prevention, or a child’s return, can provide comfort to some parents in an international custody situation.
Discuss Your International Child Custody Issue with Our Denver Lawyers
At Plog & Stein, P.C., our experienced attorneys are ready to be your advocate in an international child custody dispute in Colorado. If you are concerned that your child has been kidnapped or is at risk of abduction by the other parent, you should retain counsel quickly. With over 70 years of combined legal experience, we are well versed in all aspects of Colorado child custody. Contact us online or call the family law attorneys in Denver at Plog & Stein, P.C. at (303) 781-0322. We also represent people who need a custody or visitation lawyer in Castle Rock, Highlands Ranch, Centennial, and Aurora, as well as other communities in Arapahoe, Douglas, and Denver Counties.