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Divorce and Family Law

Child caught in international tug-of-war with parents

A child in Michigan is caught in an international tug-of-war between his mother and his overseas father that is creating a stir because the mother is accused of unfairly escaping to the United States with the child.

The 14-month-old toddler was born to a native of the United States and a father who was a native of the United Kingdom. The parents separated while the mother was still pregnant. She changed addresses several times subsequently, including after her child was born, eventually landing in Michigan in search of a stable life.

The father, however, says that the mother was basically on the run with the child and purposefully deceived social workers and friends so that she would be hard to find as she made her way back to the United States. The father petitioned for the immediate return of the child through the Hague Convention, of which the United States was a signer. The Hague Convention requires countries involved in the agreement to assist with the return of children to their lawful custodial parents when they’ve been abducted by a parent or another relative.

There were a few snags in this case, however. Despite assertions that the mother had been served notice of the lawsuit, she claimed she was not given timely notice to seek her own legal representation. In addition, the judge hearing the case rules that subterfuge on the mother’s part or not, her complicated movements made it difficult to determine if she — and the child — had been habitual residents of the United Kingdom, and therefore, subject to that court’s rulings.

This case could have interesting implications in the future on other international custody battles, so it bears watching. If you have a complicated custody issue brewing with your child, find out more about your legal options.