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How Do Virginia Courts Determine International Child Custody?

How Do Virginia Courts Determine International Child Custody?

International child custody cases can be incredibly complicated and can invoke the laws of specific states, federal laws of countries, and international laws governing issues affecting citizens of different nations. Ultimately, the way in which a Virginia court will determine international child custody will depend upon a number of different factors. For example, are both parents U.S. citizens, and is the child a U.S. citizen? Are both parents residents of Virginia but one of the parents currently resides outside the U.S. for business purposes? Where does the child reside? Are the parents currently working together to co-parent, or are there serious and substantiated concerns about one of the parents attempting to leave the U.S. with the child without the other parent’s consent?

These are just some of the questions that your Manassas international child custody lawyer will need to know in working with you on your child custody case. The court will need to know the answers to these questions as well, along with many others. Every case has its own particularities, and it is critical to talk with a child custody lawyer as soon as possible. In the meantime, we want to provide you with some general information about how Virginia courts determine international child custody.

Know That This Will Not Be a Typical Child Custody Case

When courts determine international child custody, they cannot rely on Virginia child custody laws alone. Typically, in a child custody case where both parents live in the Northern Virginia area, the court will focus on Virginia statutory law for court-ordered child custody and visitation (Code of Va. § 20-124.2) and the best interests of the child standard (Code of Va. § 20-124.3). However, an international child custody case is different. The court will need to consider the implications of international law in considering child custody issues. Accordingly, it is critical to have a family lawyer with specific experience handling international child custody issues and international family law matters.

Determining Jurisdiction

The court where the child custody case is filed (or where the divorce case is filed, if the child custody case is arising out of a divorce filing) will need to determine whether it has jurisdiction to rule on a child custody issue where one of the parents is a citizen of a foreign country and where that parent resides in a foreign country.

Applying the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction

The court will also look to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction to return a child to the U.S. if that child is a U.S. citizen and is currently abroad with the other parent, as well as to determine which country’s law will apply to the case. Generally speaking, what is known as the place of the child’s “habitual residence” will be the law applied to determine child custody. For many children in international child custody cases, if the child was removed from Northern Virginia and is currently living abroad with another parent, but the child spent a majority of his or her upbringing thus far in Northern Virginia, then Virginia will be the child’s habitual residence and the court may be able to apply Virginia law to determine custody.

These situations are extremely complicated, and you will need an attorney who is familiar with local and international laws that are applicable to child custody.

Seek Advice from an International Child Custody Attorney in Northern Virginia

Whether you are considering a move outside the U.S. or your ex currently lives in another country, one of our experienced and compassionate Virginia international child custody attorneys can begin working with you on your case. We can assess the specific issues that are likely to arise in your child custody case, and we can begin working on a plan to represent you. Contact Dougherty Tobias Iszard, Northern Virginia Law, P.C. to learn more about how our family law team can help with your international child custody case.

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