I Just Got a Divorce in Florida. My Spouse is From Another Country and I'm Afraid She Will Kidnap the Children and Take Them Out of the Country. What Can I Do to Prevent This?

Your fear is a legitimate one - there have been many publicized cases of parental abductions, and many more cases that have not been publicized. If a parental abduction does occur, it can be very hard to resolve, because foreign laws come into play, and they are very different from U.S. laws. Putting restrictions on international travel with your children can help to prevent abduction.

It’s important to check your custody decree if you believe your spouse may leave the country with your children permanently. It may put restrictions on your spouse’s ability to travel. If your divorce decree does not contain any such restrictions, you may petition the court for a change in the divorce decree. Normally, you must prove there was a change in circumstances. For example, if your child told you that his mother told him they were going to live in France forever, that would be evidence that could be presented before a court that may necessitate a change in the custody arrangement.

If your child does not already have a passport, you could refuse to sign to allow the child to get a passport. U.S. law requires the signature of both parents on a child’s passport application, except if the child’s health is at stake, or a parent has sole custody of the child.

If your ex permanently relocates to another country with your child without your permission, and the country has signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the country will immediately return the child to the U.S. if his or her parent took the child without the court’s permission. There are currently 45 countries that have signed this treaty.

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