Hague Convention Attorneys in Action

At Masters Law Group, our Hague Convention attorneys have extensive experience handling complex international disputes.

Navigating international family law can be complex and challenging, especially when it comes to child abduction disputes. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, aka the Hague Convention, is an international treaty that protects children from parental abduction across international borders. This blog will highlight rulings demonstrating the Convention’s effectiveness in resolving cross-border disputes.

Join us as we explore the legal framework, showing how it translates into real-world victories and how our Hague Convention attorneys can assist you. Here’s what you need to know.

UNDERSTANDING THE HAGUE CONVENTION

The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was enacted into law through the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (“ICARA”). It provides that a parent whose child has been wrongfully removed from the U.S. can petition for the child’s return to their country of habitual residence. Each country appoints central authorities to help resolve these disputes. As of 2024, there are 91 countries involved in the Hague Convention.

Families need to understand the importance of the Hague Convention when they find themselves involved in international disputes. Here are some tips to follow if you find yourself in this situation:

  • Prompt action is crucial: If you believe your child has been wrongfully removed or retained in a Hague Convention country, it is essential to act promptly. Initiating legal proceedings increases the chances of a successful resolution.
  • Contact the central authority: In the United States, the Office of Children’s Issues within the U.S. Department of State is the foremost authority for Hague Convention matters. They can provide information, resources, and assistance locating and returning your child.
  • Gather evidence: It is essential to gather evidence demonstrating your child’s habitual residence and the wrongful removal or retention. Documentation such as birth certificates and communication records can strengthen your case.
  • Consulting with a family law attorney: A family law attorney with experience in Hague law is recommended. They can guide you through the legal process and help you navigate the complexities of the Hague Convention.

Dealing with international disputes can be emotionally demanding, so preparing for the challenges is essential. Working with a Hague Convention attorney can provide valuable support. Now, let’s explore some recent Hague Convention cases to see how these principles are applied in real-world situations.

CASE 1: DISTRICT OF COLORADO / COLOMBIA: AGUIRRE

In our most recent case that concluded on February 20, 2024, the husband – represented by Masters Law Group –  filed a petition to return his two children. His children were taken from his residence in Colombia to the United States by their mother. The parties were married in the United States in 2012 and lived together in Colombia. 

The Respondent took the children to the U.S. for a family reunion but faced delays in their passport renewal. This case arises under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA), 42 U.S.C. § 11601 et seq., which implements the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

This Act allows a person whose child has been removed from his custody in another country and taken to the United States to petition in federal or state court for the return of the child. The court would later find in favor of the Petitioner, concluding that the Respondent wrongfully retained the children and dismissing her claim of grave risk of harm. The Petitioner’s request for the return of the children to Colombia is granted.

CASE 2: EASTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN / MEXICO: HINNENDAEL

In the Eastern District of Wisconsin / Mexico, Hinnendael, the father of the children (Petitioner), sought to relocate his children back to the United States from Mexico against the other parent’s wishes.

The court found that returning the children would subject them to a grave risk of psychological harm or otherwise place them in an intolerable situation. Accordingly, the retention of children in the United States was not wrongful within the meaning of the Convention. The petition was denied, and this action was dismissed.

By invoking the Hague Convention, our attorneys successfully advocated for the children. This case helps highlight the effectiveness of the Hague Law in resolving child abduction cases and prioritizing the children’s welfare.

CASE 3: NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS / NEW ZEALAND: H.O.

In the Northern District of Illinois / New Zealand, Ho, the husband – represented by our firm –  filed a petition for the return of his child. The child was taken from his residence in New Zealand to the United States by his wife – the mother of the child. As relevant here, the Hague Convention provides that a parent whose child has been wrongfully removed or retained in the United States may petition for the child’s return to their country of habitual residence.

By agreement of the parties and as required by the Convention, the court concludes that the child was a habitual resident of New Zealand at the time of the wrongful retention in the United States. The Petitioner exercised parental responsibility rights under New Zealand law, and this case did not establish the “grave risk” exception.

The court granted the petition for the child’s return to New Zealand and allowed an approximate one-week period to avoid any abrupt transition for the child. This case demonstrated the Hague Law’s role in helping ensure fairness, predictability, and respect for due process in international child abduction cases.

CASE 4:NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS / LITHUANIA: SULCAITE

In the Northern District of Illinois / Lithuania, Sulcaite Masters Law Group helped resolve the wrongful removal of children. The courts considered the parents’ last shared intent to their child’s country of residence.

The Respondent and the Petitioner agreed that their children would reside in Chicago temporarily. After three years, they were to return to Lithuania, their country of origin.

However, as time passed, the children became acclimated to their new life in the United States. Their mother’s remarriage and new baby created a strong family bond, and Chicago gradually became their familiar home. Considering these factors, the court denied the Petitioner for the children’s return. The decision reflected a recognition of the children’s well-being and stability, prioritizing their best interests.

This case showcases the effective advocacy of our Hague Convention attorneys in navigating complex international disputes. The legal team successfully obtained a favorable outcome for the parties involved by presenting compelling evidence.

CASE 5: NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA / CYPRUS: EFTHYMIOU V. LABONTE

In the Northern District of California / Cyprus, the husband – represented by Masters Law Group –  filed a petition to return his child, who was taken from Cyprus to the United States by his wife – the child’s mother. The child’s father (Petitioner) had full parental rights to the child since his parents’ separation in 2014. The minor came to the United States for a six-week visit with his mother (Respondent) in California. At the end of the visit, the Petitioner came to collect his son but was unsuccessful.

Nearly one week after the scheduled meet-up went awry, the child’s father filed a Hague Convention plea. The court granted the petition and ordered the child to return to Cyprus in the custody of his father. In addition, the court did not impose a longer stay without agreement from both sides. The court ultimately ordered the return of a child under an action under U.S.C.S.C. § 9003.

These cases showcase our commitment to navigating international child abduction disputes and achieving favorable outcomes for our clients.

WORK WITH OUR HAGUE CONVENTION ATTORNEYS

The Hague Convention continues to play a pivotal role in reuniting families affected by parental child abduction. At Masters Law Group, we understand the complexities of international child abduction disputes and the importance of finding a resolution that aligns with your objectives.

Our Hague Convention attorneys will tirelessly advocate for your interests and work towards a favorable outcome. We prioritize open communication with our clients and strive to provide personalized attention to address your concerns.

To learn more about how we can help you, schedule your complimentary consultation today.

Tips For Celebrating Father’s Day Amidst Divorce

Father’s Day holds special significance as a time to honor and celebrate the father figures in our lives. Yet, for dads navigating divorce, finding the balance of co-parenting and managing new parenting schedules can feel overwhelming.

The number of children living solely with their fathers has increased over the past few decades. In 1968, only 0.8 million children lived with their fathers. That number has grown to 3.3 million today, reflecting a shift toward fathers taking on roles traditionally reserved for mothers. While divorce and separation have become more common over time, it also provides hope that affected individuals still thrive despite its challenges.

In this blog, we’ll explore strategies for navigating Father’s Day, with tips for supporting your children, focusing on what you can control, and how a family law attorney can provide assistance. Here’s what you need to know.

PLAN FATHER’S DAY ACTIVITIES IN ADVANCE

Planning is one of the most crucial steps to a smooth Father’s Day celebration amidst divorce. Last-minute arrangements can lead to stress and misunderstandings. Here are some key considerations to help you effectively plan for Father’s Day:

  • Make a plan in advance: Discuss and agree on the Father’s Day schedule well in advance. This helps avoid last-minute conflicts and helps ensure both parents are on the same page regarding visitation arrangements. Planning early also allows for adjustments if needed, giving everyone extra time to prepare and make necessary arrangements.
  • Involve the Children: Consider your children’s wishes and feelings when planning for Father’s Day. Ask them how they would like to celebrate and try incorporating their ideas into the plan. Involving them in your plan helps their voices be heard, making them feel included in the celebration. Whether it’s a special outing, a homemade gift, or simply spending quality time together, involving the children in planning can make the day more meaningful for everyone.
  • Be Flexible: While planning is important, it’s also essential to remain flexible. Unexpected events or changes in circumstances may require adjustments to the original plan. Being open to flexibility and willing to accommodate each other’s needs can help prevent conflicts and provide a more enjoyable Father’s Day for all involved.

By proactively planning and considering the preferences of all parties involved, you can help ensure that Father’s Day is a positive and memorable experience amidst divorce.

CREATE NEW FATHER’S DAY TRADITIONS

Starting new traditions with your children for Father’s Day offers an opportunity to infuse the occasion with fresh meaning and excitement. It’s a chance to help create unique experiences and strengthen your bond as a family. Whether navigating Father’s Day in between a divorce or simply seeking to revitalize the celebration, establishing new traditions can be fun and rewarding. 

  • Consider Everyone’s Interests: Choose activities that cater to your interests as a father and your children’s preferences. Whether it’s a nature hike, a cooking session, or a fun craft project, find activities everyone can participate in and enjoy.
  • Make it Meaningful: Infuse your new traditions with meaning and significance. Consider incorporating elements that reflect your family values or create opportunities for bonding and quality time together.
  • Document the Memories: Capture the moments and memories created during your new traditions. Take photos, write in a journal, or create a scrapbook to preserve these special moments for years to come.

These new traditions can become cherished rituals that you and your children look forward to each year, strengthening your connection and creating lasting bonds of love and joy.

FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL 

If you’re navigating Father’s Day amidst a divorce, it’s important to focus on what you can control and let go of what you cannot. While you may not be able to control your ex-partner’s actions or attitudes, you can control your response and behavior. 

  • Practice Self-Care: Take care of yourself emotionally and physically before Father’s Day. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether spending time with friends, practicing mindfulness, or pursuing a hobby.
  • Stay Present: Instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, focus on being present and enjoying your time with your children.
  • Seek Support: If you feel overwhelmed or emotional, lean on friends or family. Surround yourself with positive influences who can offer encouragement and perspective.

A family law attorney can offer guidance and legal advice to help you develop a plan that provides clarity and structure throughout the planning process. With a clear plan, you can aim for special celebrations filled with warmth and understanding.

ABIDE BY YOUR PARENTING PLAN 

A parenting plan can help alleviate potential conflicts, including those surrounding occasions like Father’s Day. It provides a comprehensive framework for both parents to follow, reducing ambiguity and promoting smoother communication and cooperation. 

Once you receive a parenting plan after divorce, it’s not open for negotiation. Short of approval for an order modification, both parents are expected to follow their parenting plan as it’s written.

Essential components to have in your plan include:

  • Residence arrangements for the child.
  • Allocation of parenting time for each parent.
  • Protocols for sharing information and records concerning the child.
  • Transportation arrangements for parenting time.

Both parents must sign the plan indicating they agree on all the document terms when filing one plan. If parents do not agree, they must file separate plans. The court will look at each detail of both plans to determine what’s in the best interest of the child or children. Seeking a divorce attorney’s assistance can help facilitate productive discussions and formalize any changes to the parenting plan.

ALLOCATION OF PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES

If you have followed the tips above and are having trouble reaching an agreement, an Allocation of Parental Responsibilities can help. Understanding the allocation of parental responsibilities is crucial for fostering a cooperative co-parenting relationship. In Illinois, there are three primary types of child allocation of parental responsibilities:

  • Joint allocation of parental responsibilities requires parents to collaborate on decision-making regarding their child’s education, healthcare, religious instruction, and other essential matters. The parents will agree, or the court will assign a residential parent. The non-residential parent will provide child support and have designated parenting time, as determined by a parenting time agreement or court order.
  • Sole allocation of parental responsibilities refers to an arrangement where one parent assumes full responsibility for making decisions concerning the child’s well-being. However, it doesn’t imply that the other parent is wholly excluded from the child’s life.
  • Shared allocation of parental responsibilities is a variation of joint allocation. It is suitable when the child spends equal time with both parents. The parents live in the same school district and can co-parent effectively. 

For fathers facing challenges in navigating parental responsibilities, seeking help from a family law attorney can be valuable. An attorney can provide legal advice and help establish a parenting arrangement that serves the child’s best interests while addressing both parents’ needs and concerns.

WORKING WITH MASTERS LAW GROUP

Celebrating Father’s Day amidst a divorce requires careful planning and focusing on the children’s well-being. Remember, the goal is to honor the father’s role in your children’s lives while fostering a cooperative co-parenting relationship.

At Masters Law Group, our goal is to help clients assert their rights to help protect the best interests of their children. Partner Anthony G. Joseph brings valuable insights to our firm as both a father and an experienced practitioner in divorce cases. He is also an approved Guardian Ad Litem and Child Representative listed for the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

With a strong focus on assisting clients in Chicago and Chicago’s Western Suburbs (Elmhurst, Hinsdale, DuPage, Oakbrook), we offer various services to help parents, children, and families through difficult times like divorce and allocation of parental responsibilities. If you face challenges navigating Father’s Day amidst a divorce and want to know your rights, don’t hesitate to reach out. 

Contact us today to set up your complimentary consultation.

Navigating Civil Unions During Pride Month

June is known worldwide as Pride Month, a time when the LGBTQ+ community and its allies come together to advocate for a more inclusive future. As we celebrate Pride Month, we must recognize civil unions’ role in providing legal protection for same-sex couples.

Illinois became the first state to legalize civil unions on June 1, 2011. For many same-sex couples, civil unions represent the legal acknowledgment of their relationship, offering rights and responsibilities similar to those of marriage. However, navigating the legal complexities of civil unions can be challenging, especially in jurisdictions where LGBTQ+ rights are still evolving. In this blog, we will explore civil unions, dissolutions, and how a family law attorney can help. Here’s what you should know.

What Is A Civil Union?

Civil unions allow two adults of the same or opposite sex to enter a legally recognized relationship. Contrary to a common misconception, civil unions are not exclusive to same-sex couples. Same-sex and opposite-sex couples can enter into a civil union in Illinois. Partners entering a civil union are entitled to the same legal obligations, protections, and benefits that state law provides to married spouses, including:

  • Property rights.
  • Healthcare decisions.
  • Inheritance rights.
  • Access to family-related legal protections.

Civil unions help ensure that couples receive equal treatment and recognition under state law. Understanding the distinction between state and federal recognition is vital for couples considering a civil union. However, if you have entered a civil union with your partner but have decided to move on, you will need a civil union dissolution.

Understanding Civil Union Dissolution

In Illinois, the process of dissolving a civil union follows similar procedures to that of a traditional divorce. A party to a civil union may petition the Court to dissolve the civil union just as with the Dissolution of Marriage. You must draft a Petition to Dissolve a Civil Union alleging similar facts as in a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and follow similar procedures below. Here is a closer look at the dissolution process and what a family law attorney can guide you through:

  1. File a Petition to Dissolve a Civil Union with the county circuit court clerk where it was granted.
  2. Provide the respondent with a copy of the petition and a summons, notifying them of the dissolution proceedings.
  3. Attempt to reach a settlement agreement through negotiation or mediation outside of Court.
  4. The case may proceed to trial if no settlement is reached or there are contested issues.
  5. The Court will issue a final judgment of dissolution.
  6. After dissolution, obtain a certified copy of the Dissolution of Civil Union records from the county circuit court clerk for legal documentation.

Consulting with a divorce attorney experienced in civil union law can help ensure that the process proceeds smoothly and that your rights are protected.

The Role of a Family Law Attorney

Establishing or dissolving a civil union can create unique challenges and legal complexities. At Masters Law Group, our attorneys provide professional legal representation for civil unions. Our attorneys have dedicated years and resources to understanding and fighting for LGBTQ+ rights. To showcase our experience, here are a few ways we can help:

  • Experienced Mediators: Erin E. Masters is approved as a Mediator for the Cook County Domestic Relations Division and offers private mediation services. The firm’s mediation counselors have extensive experience in family law and are skilled in facilitating productive discussions between divorcing spouses.
  • Experienced Litigators: Our attorneys meticulously prepare legal arguments, gather evidence, and strategically plan to help secure your most favorable outcome.
  • Conflict Resolution: Our divorce attorneys are well-rounded in conflict resolution. We focus on finding peaceful solutions for all parties involved, including their children.
  • Protecting Your Interests: Masters Law Group attorneys work to protect your legal rights and the best interests of you and your children.

LGBTQ+ individuals can benefit from accessing diverse community resources tailored to their needs, complementing the assistance a family law attorney provides. These resources offer emotional support, legal guidance, and connections within the LGBTQ+ community.

LGBTQ+ Community Resources

Chicago, Illinois, boasts a vibrant LGBTQ+ community with numerous resources dedicated to supporting individuals in civil unions. The Center on Halsted is a comprehensive LGBTQ+ community center offering various services, including legal clinics, counseling, and support groups.

The Howard Brown Health Center also provides LGBTQ+-affirming healthcare services, including primary care, mental health services, and special programs for transgender and non-binary individuals. 

The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance focuses on creating safe and inclusive environments for LGBTQ+ youth in schools through advocacy and education. These organizations are vital in providing support, resources, and community connections for individuals in civil unions.

Celebrating Pride Month With Masters Law Group

As we celebrate Pride Month, it’s essential to recognize the ongoing struggles of same-sex couples. Seeking the guidance of a knowledgeable family law attorney can help individuals navigate civil unions successfully.

At Masters Law Group, we provide professional and individualized legal representation for various family law concerns, including civil unions. Our firm has dedicated considerable time to becoming knowledgeable and up-to-date in this new area of family law. Whether you want to form a civil union or need a civil union dissolution, we will take the time to fully understand your situation and provide honest advice regarding your options.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Summer Break Tips for Recently Divorced Parents

With the end of the school year quickly approaching in the Chicagoland area, parents are preparing to have their kids back home full-time. For recently divorced parents, summer break can come with its own set of complexities and emotions.

More than a million U.S. children are affected by divorce each year, and according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) roughly 50% of American children will witness their parents’ divorce. Navigating the intricacies of handling divorce is crucial to helping children experience a stress-free and enjoyable summer. Whether you’re facing your first summer as a single parent or a seasoned co-parent, here are some essential tips to help you navigate summer break smoothly.

Understanding Parental Responsibilities

Summer schedules can become complex quickly, with changes in parenting arrangements and the need to coordinate holiday time with a former spouse. Parental responsibilities encompass both parenting time and decision-making authority. Parenting time, formerly called “visitation,” outlines the schedule for each parent’s time with the children. A family court judge determines and approves this schedule and intervenes if parents cannot agree.

Decision-making authority pertains to significant aspects of the child’s life, including education, health care, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities. Divorced parents can share these responsibilities jointly or allocate them into specific categories. If the parents can’t agree on who gets what responsibility, the Illinois family court judge will allocate those responsibilities among them. Let’s explore some tips to help make your co-parenting a breeze this summer.

Flexibility is Key for Divorced Parents

As the anticipation of summer builds, sitting down with your ex-partner to discuss and plan the upcoming summer schedule ahead of time is crucial. This proactive approach helps coordinate vacations, camps, and other summer activities. A well-thought-out plan can help parents and children look forward to an exciting and memorable summer. With a clear plan, you can preempt last-minute conflicts and ensure that both parents enjoy quality time with their children during this special time of year.

In co-parenting, flexibility is crucial, especially during the summer months when schedules tend to be more fluid. Remember that flexibility benefits you and contributes to a positive experience for your children. By embracing flexibility and working with your ex-partner, you can create a summer filled with cherished memories for the whole family.

Have Clear Holiday Parenting Plans

Summer break often means a break from the usual routine. And if you’re newly divorced parents, it can be a stressful time trying to navigate the change without disturbing the peace. A clear co-parenting plan can provide stability and predictability for you and your children. Take this opportunity to revisit your parenting plan and how you and your ex-spouse share outlined responsibilities and decisions regarding your children. 

If you’re unsure about how to create or modify your co-parenting plan, seeking the assistance of a family law attorney can be incredibly valuable. A family law attorney can offer guidance and legal advice to help you develop a plan that provides clarity and structure throughout the summer season.

Open Communication is Key

Summer is often filled with special occasions and planned trips. Keeping the lines of communication open is a proactive way to discuss any concerns or potential changes to the schedule. This level of openness promotes transparency and can help reassure children that summer can still be enjoyable despite changes in the family dynamic. 

Regular check-ins help ensure that both parents are on the same page. Whether it’s a quick phone call, text message, or face-to-face meeting, check-ins provide an opportunity to address any issues. By prioritizing open communication, you can foster a cooperative co-parenting environment that benefits everyone involved.

Put Your Children First

Parents, caregivers, and educators play a vital role in supporting children emotionally during and after a divorce. Research indicates that children often face significant challenges during this period, particularly in the first year or two post-divorce. It’s crucial to recognize that each child is unique, with their own set of feelings and needs.

Pay close attention to your children’s emotions and requirements, offering support if they struggle with the changes brought about by the divorce. While disagreements may naturally arise, strive to minimize conflicts, especially when in the presence of the children. Cultivate a positive co-parenting relationship, placing the well-being of your children at the forefront of your priorities.

However, if conflicts persist despite efforts to resolve them amicably, seeking assistance from a family law attorney may be necessary. They can provide guidance and support to help navigate legal complexities while ensuring the best interests of your children remain the primary focus.

Work with a Family Law Attorney

If you’re facing significant challenges or disagreements with your co-parent, consider seeking guidance from a family law attorney. An experienced family law attorney can help by providing valuable advice and helping you navigate complex legal issues related to custody, visitation, and parenting plans. 

At Masters Law Group, our family law attorneys focus on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interests of their children. Attorney Erin E. Masters is a court-appointed Child Representative with experience advocating for children in these high-conflict matters. Attorney Anthony G. Joseph is an approved Guardian Ad Litem/Child Representatives list for the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

With a strong focus on assisting clients in Cook County and DuPage County, Illinois, we offer various services to help parents, children, and families through difficult times like Divorce, Allocation of Parental Responsibilities, and more.

Final Thoughts

Summer break can be a time of fun and relaxation for both parents and children, even after a divorce. By planning ahead of time and communicating effectively to put your children’s best interests first, you can easily navigate the summer months. 

If you require legal assistance, contact a member of our legal team today. Our family law attorneys will work with you to develop an appropriate action plan for your unique needs and goals. We will work diligently on your behalf and provide regular updates.

Contact us today to set up a complimentary consultation.

Understanding International Parental Child Abduction on Missing Children’s Day

May 25th, 2024, is National Missing Children’s Day, a reminder of the importance of child safety and the prevention of child abductions. For parents, guardians, and all those invested in the safety of children, vigilance is vital. 

Despite concerted efforts, parental child abductions persist, with international cases posing particularly daunting challenges. Shockingly, family abductions alone make up 49 percent of all child abduction cases, underscoring the gravity of the issue. The heartache endured by both the abducted child and the left-behind parent is truly unimaginable.

In this blog, we will explore the complexities of international parental child abduction, providing you with essential knowledge and resources should you ever confront this distressing scenario. Here’s what you need to know.

National Missing Children’s Day

National Missing Children’s Day is a solemn occasion emphasizing ongoing efforts to protect and defend children nationwide. This day, established by President Ronald Reagan on May 25, 1983, pays tribute to the brave endeavors of various agencies, organizations, and individuals dedicated to protecting children’s safety.

The origin of National Missing Children’s Day lies in the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz from New York City on May 25, 1979. Etan’s case not only shocked the nation but also catalyzed efforts to address the issue of missing children on a national scale. On this day, we remember him and acknowledge the unwavering dedication of those who tirelessly work to reunite families and protect children.

Let’s turn our attention to a crucial aspect of child safety: understanding the signs of parental child abduction. By identifying these indicators, we can help better protect our children and take proactive steps to prevent such heartbreaking situations.

Knowing The Signs Of Parental Child Abduction

Being able to identify the red flags that signal parental child abduction is crucial when it comes to preventing these tragic scenarios. Family members can often be the perpetrators, as they may believe they know what is best for the child. Young children are particularly vulnerable targets as they may not know how to seek help or alert others if their parent takes them.

It is essential to be mindful of warning signs and factors that may increase the likelihood of parental child abduction, including:

  1. Threats and Previous Incidents: Any previous threats of seriously hiding your child are critical, as these behaviors can escalate to abduction.
  2. Weak Ties to Current Location: Parents with limited connections to their current community, unstable employment, or distant family may feel more inclined to relocate with the child.
  3. Strong Affiliation with Another Country: Keep an eye on parents with strong emotional or familial ties to another country, especially if they have lived there previously or frequently express a desire to return.
  4. Recent Unexplained Changes in Behavior: Sudden and unexplained actions like quitting a job, selling property, closing bank accounts, or applying for passports or visas should raise concerns, as they could indicate plans for abduction.
  5. History of Relationship Struggles or Domestic Violence: In some cases, parents who perceive themselves as wronged in the relationship may resort to abduction as a means of retaliation.

By recognizing these red flags, we can take proactive steps to help protect our children and prevent the devastating consequences of parental child abduction.

How To Keep Children Safe

Helping secure the safety of our children involves proactive steps and swift action when needed. Establishing clear parental responsibilities and visitation plans is crucial. Reporting a parenting dispute to appropriate authorities, such as local law enforcement or a state judicial officer, is vital for accountability and expedited resolution.

There are also great aids available besides the local authorities. Reaching out to resources like the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) can provide support. NCMEC collaborates closely with government agencies and administers programs like the Victim Reunification Travel Program.

To further help mitigate the risk of parental child abduction or enhance the chances of recovering a missing child, consider the following gathering the following:

  • Up-to-date pictures of your child.
  • Fingerprints of your child.
  • A written detailed description of your child, including height, weight, hair color, eye color, birthmarks, and noticeable physical characteristics.
  • Copies of your child’s Social Security card and passport.

By collaboratively taking these measures, we can collectively contribute to helping safeguard the safety and well-being of all children. Additionally, seeking guidance from a seasoned child abduction attorney with Hague Convention case experience can help navigate such challenging situations.

How The Hague Convention Can Help

The Hague Convention is an international agreement that provides a legal framework for the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed or retained outside their home country. The Convention guarantees that parents must return children involved in international custody cases to their habitual residence. This deters parents from attempting to relocate children across borders without the other parent’s consent or a court order.

The original Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 were massive, multi-part international treaties that established certain guidelines of international law, including rules of engagement that countries agreed to follow during times of war. In the decades since, many additional Hague conventions have taken place, and the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) was established as a permanent organization with the goal of establishing and supporting a set of unified international laws.

Each section and installment of the Hague Conventions has been signed, ratified, and entered into force by a different selection of countries. As such, any list of “Hague countries” based upon a single convention would be suspect and inadequate. However, as of March 2022, the HCCH itself includes 91 permanent members: 90 countries (nearly all of which are also members of the United Nations) and the European Union itself, which is classified as a “Regional Economic Integration Organisation (REIO). HCCH also includes 65 “connected parties” which are not full members, but are either in the process of becoming a member or have signed, ratified or agreed to observe one or more HCCH Conventions (full list can be found here).

How Does The Hague Convention Work?

The left-behind parent can initiate legal proceedings for the child’s return when someone wrongfully removes or retains them in a Hague Convention country. The central authority in the country where the child is located, such as the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, plays a crucial role in coordinating efforts to find the child and facilitate their return.

Under the Hague Convention, the child’s return is the primary objective, and the legal proceedings focus on determining the child’s habitual residence and whether their removal or retention violated the custody rights of the left-behind parent. The Hague Convention does not address custody or visitation rights issues but instead focuses on the prompt return of the child to their country of habitual residence. 

Click here to see the participating countries of the treaty. 

Working With A Child Abduction Attorney

International custody disputes are almost always extremely complex and delicate situations, and you should not attempt to navigate them without the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced child abduction attorney. A family law attorney well-versed in child abductions can provide crucial assistance in filing Hague Convention applications and help defend against lawsuits under the Convention.

Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph have extensive experience in cases involving international child custody disputes in both courts located in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system. We have extensive knowledge and experience with The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“The Hague Convention”) that was enacted into law through the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (“ICARA”), which provides that a parent whose child has been wrongfully removed from or retained in the United States may petition for the child’s return to his or her country of habitual residence.

See our Featured Hague Decisions here:

Last Thoughts

National Missing Children’s Day reminds us of our ongoing efforts to reunite missing children with their families. One significant step towards this goal is for the U.S. and other countries to participate in the Hague Convention, which helps enable the negotiation of treaties to streamline international justice.

When dealing with international child custody/abduction cases, it’s essential to have the support of a knowledgeable family law attorney who understands the intricacies of the international legal system. With our guidance, you can navigate the complex legal processes involved in The Hague Convention and work toward a fast resolution, prioritizing the child’s well-being.

Contact us here today to learn more.

Navigating Divorce on Mother’s Day

As Mother’s Day approaches, moms going through a divorce may be experiencing sadness, loneliness, and guilt. However, the most important thing to remember is that it can also be painful for your children, but it doesn’t have to be. How can you move past these negative feelings and enjoy the celebration that you deserve? Plan new traditions!

Mother’s Day is a special occasion dedicated to honoring the mother figures in our lives for their love and selfless sacrifices. However, for mothers going through divorce, finding a balance through this transitional period can feel like an overwhelming and emotional challenge.

Approximately 50% of all children in the United States will witness the end of their parents’ marriage, underscoring the significant impact divorce can have on families. While divorce and separation have become more common over time, it also provides hope that affected individuals still thrive despite its challenges.

In this blog, we’ll explore strategies for navigating Mother’s Day, with tips for supporting your children, maintaining focus on what you can control, and how a family law attorney can help. Here’s what you need to know.

Understanding Children’s Emotions in Divorce

Divorce can be particularly challenging for children, and occasions like Mother’s Day may exacerbate many different emotions. Providing emotional support and creating a safe environment for your children to express themselves is crucial as a divorced parent. It’s important to recognize the signs of reactions exhibited by children, including:

  • Feelings of sadness and loss: Children may experience a sense of grief and mourn the loss of the intact family they once knew.
  • Anger and resentment: Children may express their frustration and anger over the divorce, often directed towards one or both parents.
  • Anxiety and insecurity: The stability and routine they once relied upon may be disrupted, leading to feelings of uncertainty and anxiety about their future. They may worry about their living arrangements, school changes, and how their relationships with their parents will be affected.
  • Academic and behavioral challenges: Divorce can impact a child’s educational performance and behavior. They may struggle to concentrate, exhibit aggression, withdraw, or act out to cope with their emotions.

Understanding the effects of divorce on children is crucial to providing them with the necessary support during this challenging time. Let’s look at how parental responsibilities and parenting time can be beneficial during this difficult transitional period.

Parental Responsibilities Tips for Mother’s Day

Parental responsibilities include two main items: parenting time (formerly “visitation”) and the power to make decisions for children. Parenting time is a schedule that shows when each parent spends time with the children. This schedule is created and approved by a judge in family court. If the parents can’t agree on the schedule, the judge will decide what’s best for the child and assign a schedule for the parents.

Parental responsibilities also refer to the decision-making obligations each parent will have on behalf of the child. Parents can agree to make these decisions together or divide them into categories, which should cover the following:

  • Education
  • Health
  • Religion
  • Extracurricular Activities

If the parents can’t agree on who gets what responsibility, the Illinois family court judge will allocate those responsibilities among them. Let’s dive into some tips to help you make co-parenting easier this Mother’s Day.

Review and Update Your Parenting Plan

One of the first steps in navigating Mother’s Day after a divorce is establishing clear guidelines for parental responsibilities. Crafting a parenting plan that addresses special occasions like Mother’s Day requires a well-thought-out agenda that can help alleviate confusion and minimize conflict. When creating a parenting plan for Mother’s Day, consider the following:

  • Alternating Years: Decide whether Mother’s Day will be alternated between parents each year or if there will be separate celebrations with each parent.
  • Flexibility: Be open to flexibility and compromise. Sometimes, unexpected circumstances may arise, and being willing to adjust plans accordingly can help benefit everyone involved.
  • Respect Boundaries: Respect each other’s boundaries and wishes regarding Mother’s Day celebrations. If one parent prefers to spend the day alone with the children, honor that request and find alternative ways to celebrate.

Try to maintain a united front regarding co-parenting decisions. Keeping children out of adult conflicts can help reassure them of your love and support.

Keep an Open Line of Communication

Effective communication with your co-parent can be key to successfully navigating Mother’s Day. While emotions may run high, maintaining a respectful and cooperative co-parenting relationship is essential for the well-being of your children. This partnership can help reassure children that special events can still be celebrated despite changes in the family dynamic.

Discuss plans for Mother’s Day to avoid last-minute conflicts or misunderstandings. Clearly outline expectations and responsibilities to help ensure a smooth celebration. Be willing to compromise and accommodate each other’s schedules and preferences. Remember that the focus should be on what’s best for the children, even if it means adjusting plans. 

Ways to Build New Family Traditions after Divorce

We’ve compiled a list of three, great ideas for newly divorced couples with families to create new traditions in the next chapter of their lives and the lives of their kids.

  • Plan Your Getaway: Starting a yearly vacation tradition with your family can be incredibly rewarding. You might opt to revisit a beloved destination annually, or perhaps you’ll gather everyone’s input to decide on a new adventure each year. This special time away gives everyone something to eagerly anticipate and offers a valuable opportunity to reconnect amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life.
  • Acknowledging Change: It’s unrealistic to expect life to remain unchanged post-divorce. Significant adjustments lie ahead, and it’s essential for everyone involved to recognize and accept this reality. However, this transition also presents an opportunity to establish new plans and traditions for the future. Clear communication about custody arrangements and upcoming events helps set expectations and fosters a sense of stability for all.
  • Embrace Flexibility: Flexibility can be a cornerstone of amicable divorces, though it can be challenging when tensions run high. Yet, being open to compromise can benefit everyone involved. For instance, offering to adjust your schedule to accommodate your ex-spouse’s plans for a special event demonstrates goodwill and may pave the way for reciprocal flexibility down the line.

Focus on What You Can Control This Mother’s Day

Finally, in navigating Mother’s Day after a divorce, it’s important to focus on what you can control and let go of what you cannot. While you may not be able to control your ex-partner’s actions or attitudes, you can control your response and behavior. Here’s how to focus on what you can control:

  • Practice Self-Care: Take care of yourself emotionally and physically before Mother’s Day. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether spending time with friends, practicing mindfulness, or pursuing a hobby.
  • Stay Present: Instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, focus on being present and enjoying your time with your children.
  • Seek Support: If you feel overwhelmed or emotional, lean on friends or family. Surround yourself with positive influences who can offer encouragement and perspective.

A family law attorney can offer guidance and legal advice to help you develop a plan that provides clarity and structure throughout the planning process. With a clear plan, you can aim for special celebrations filled with warmth and understanding.

How Masters Law Group Can Help

Navigating Mother’s Day after a divorce requires patience and a willingness to prioritize the well-being of your children above all else. At Masters Law Group, our family law attorneys focus on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interests of their children.

As a mom herself, Partner Erin E. Masters can empathize the pain moms must go through when navigating divorce proceedings, especially over Mother’s Day. To help mother’s across Illinois, Erin is also a court-appointed Child Representative with experience advocating for children in these high-conflict matters. Furthermore, Partner Anthony G. Joseph is an approved Guardian Ad Litem/Child Representatives list for the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

With a strong focus on assisting clients in Chicago and Chicago’s Western Suburbs (Elmhurst, Hinsdale, DuPage, Oakbrook), we offer various services to help parents, children, and families through difficult times like divorce and allocation of parental responsibilities. If you face challenges navigating Mother’s Day after or during divorce and want to know your rights, don’t hesitate to reach out. Set up a complimentary consultation today.

Divorce In The Forces: PTSD

As we observe Military Appreciation Month this May, it’s essential to acknowledge the challenges faced by military families, particularly when it comes to issues like mental health problems and navigating divorce.

While at its core, military divorce shares common legal aspects with civilian divorces, complexities arise with military pensions, child custody arrangements, and other family law matters, often causing tensions between the separating spouses. Moreover, when mental health challenges such as depression and PTSD, prevalent among military personnel, are factored in, navigating this emotionally fraught journey becomes even more delicate and intricate.

Mental Health in The Military

The lifestyle of military families and the multiple stressors that military partners face can lead to anxiety as well as major depressive disorder. It is important to be aware of such where there’s anxiety; you may also find major depressive disorder.

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 7 out of every 100 Veterans (or 7%) will have PTSD. In the general population, 6 out of every 100 adults (or 6%) will have PTSD in their lifetime. PTSD is also more common among female Veterans (13 out of 100, or 13%) versus male Veterans (6 out of 100, or 6%). We are learning more about transgender Veterans and those who do not identify as male or female (non-binary). PTSD can affect how couples get along with each other. It can also directly affect the mental health of partners.

A subsequent study by Combat Stress asked veterans’ partners about their experiences of living with someone with PTSD. The results showed that partners face challenges, including inequality in their relationship, loss of their own identity, living in a volatile environment, and emotional distress and isolation.

Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Divorce

PTSD is a mental health condition that can arise following exposure to or witnessing a traumatic event. The impact of PTSD can reverberate throughout every facet of a relationship, manifesting in communication breakdowns and even violent outbursts. Common symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about an event. 

According to the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS), Veterans with PTSD exhibit a higher likelihood of experiencing marital difficulties. The study revealed that Veterans with PTSD:

  • Are twice as likely to undergo divorce.
  • Are three times more prone to multiple divorces.
  • Tend to have shorter-lasting relationships.

It’s crucial to understand that these symptoms stem not from choice or weakness but from profound psychological trauma. If you are a spouse navigating a partner’s PTSD, patience, compassion, and education are paramount. Let’s explore some tips for navigating PTSD and divorce.

If you need support, you can:

Navigating PTSD & Divorce

Navigating divorce with a military spouse requires a delicate balance of empathy, understanding, and practical support. Understanding what your spouse is going through can help you respond with compassion. While being supportive is important, setting boundaries to protect your well-being is also essential. Make it clear what behavior is acceptable and what is not, and be prepared to enforce those boundaries if necessary.

While these strategies can help manage the challenges of divorce with a spouse with PTSD and other mental health issues, there may come a point where professional help is necessary. Here are some signs that it may be time to seek professional help:

  • Escalating Conflict: If conflicts with your spouse are becoming more frequent or intense, and attempts to resolve them have been unsuccessful, it may be time to involve a professional mediator or divorce attorney.
  • Safety Concerns: If you or your children feel unsafe or threatened by your spouse’s behavior, it’s essential to take steps to protect yourselves, which may include seeking a protective order or filing for divorce.
  • Lack of Progress: If your spouse is unwilling or unable to seek treatment for their PTSD, or if their symptoms are not improving despite treatment, it may be time to involve a mediator or divorce attorney.

Recognizing the right time to seek assistance from a divorce attorney is essential. It’s crucial to work with a divorce attorney who has experience in handling cases involving military families and comprehends the intricacies of PTSD.

What You’ll Need To File A Divorce

If you’re a military family, there are some limitations on what you can do regarding filing for divorce. When couples find themselves struggling to resolve conflict, and divorce seems like more and more of a reality, many parents question whether or not they should stay or pursue separation. Often, the best way to approach possible psychological issues in a military divorce is the same way they should be approached in every divorce, albeit with some unique additions.

The Federal Service Members Civil Relief Act of 2003 requires a person seeking a divorce to state their spouse is not a member of the U.S. armed forces. This rule prevents spouses from divorcing military members who could not attend divorce proceedings.

If your spouse is a member of the military, you can pursue a divorce as long as they consent. However, they have to sign a defendant’s affidavit of consent. Even though there are a few added rules regarding the military divorce process, the remaining process is similar to civilian divorce. You will still need to agree on the following:

In many cases, you can file for a no-fault divorce (Illinois is a No-Fault Divorce State) if you and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce. If not, however, an experienced divorce lawyer can help mediate your dispute and draft a settlement agreement. 

How a Divorce Attorney Can Help

We understand that military life can be difficult for families, especially when divorce is involved. At Masters Law Group, we consider all aspects of military life when working with our clients during their divorces. Here are some areas where we can help guide you:

  • Parenting Plans: If you have children, it’s essential to work closely with your attorney to determine the most suitable arrangements for allocating parental responsibilities and visitation. We aim to help create arrangements that prioritize your children’s well-being and best interests.
  • Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution: We encourage exploring options like mediation and collaborative divorce, which can facilitate mutually beneficial agreements outside the courtroom. Our family law attorneys will skillfully guide you through these processes, representing your interests and helping you secure a smoother negotiation experience.
  • Post-Divorce Modifications: Life can bring unexpected changes even after the divorce is finalized. Circumstances may arise that require modifications to parental responsibilities, visitation, or support arrangements. Our attorneys are here to assist you in addressing these changes promptly and effectively, helping protect your rights and the interests of your children.

Working with a divorce attorney can help you confidently navigate the complexities of divorce and help reduce stress. Your rights and the well-being of your family are our top priorities.

Final Thoughts

PTSD, depression, and divorce can be a match made in hell. If you are seeking divorce in the military, you don’t have to go it alone. At Masters Law Group, we move through settlement negotiations, mediation, or litigation with our clients’ assurance and well-being in mind.

Whether you are facing a contested divorce, uncontested divorce, or civil union divorce in the forces this Military Appreciation Month, our firm’s attorneys are ready to skillfully advocate for your position and provide your voice when you need it most.

Contact us today to set up your complimentary consultation.

Masters Law Group Welcomes New Associate, Catherine Brukalo

Masters Law Group proudly welcomes Catherine R. Brukalo as its newest family law associate. With a deep knowledge of the legal field, Mrs. Brukalo brings a wealth of experience to the firm.


About Catherine Brukalo

Catherine Brukalo holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and her Master of Arts from University College London in England. Mrs. Brukalo interned at the United States Consulate General in Krakow, Poland, during her time in London. There, she represented the Consulate to various private and governmental organizations. She earned recognition from the United States Ambassador to Poland, Christopher R. Hill.

Legal Experience and Contributions

Associate Attorney Catherine Brukalo

Catherine Brukalo

Mrs. Brukalo earned her Juris Doctorate from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois. She would later begin her legal career as a Law Clerk under Supreme Court Rule 711 with the Cook County State’s Attorney. This helped her gain experience in a felony drug courtroom. Since then, she has represented clients in a variety of legal matters. These legal matters include:

  • Personal injury.
  • Wrongful death.
  • Professional Malpractice.
  • Probate.
  • Breach of contract claims.
  • Real estate transactions.
  • Domestic relations.

Mrs. Brukalo is actively involved in the legal community, having served in various capacities, such as a member of the Illinois State Bar Association, Advocates Society, McHenry County Bar Association, and Chicago Bar Association. She has received recognition for her contributions, including a Presidential Commendation from the ISBA President for her work on civics education and being named an Illinois Rising Star and Super Lawyer by Illinois Super Lawyers.

In addition to her legal prowess, Mrs. Brukalo is fluent in Polish and regularly publishes legal articles in a Chicago-based Polish-language newspaper. She is also trained in Mediation and Arbitration and holds certification as a Life Coach. She serves as a Director on the Board of the Niles Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Niles, Illinois.

Mrs. Brukalo’s primary focus at Masters Law Group is domestic relations, handling cases involving divorce, parentage, allocation of parental responsibilities, and child support. Her dedication to her clients and commitment to excellence make her a valuable asset to the firm.

About Masters Law Group

Recognized as one of the Best Law Firms in 2023 by Best Lawyers® and U.S. News & World Report, Masters Law Group is located in Chicago, Illinois, and handles family law matters in Cook County and surrounding areas. It concentrates on areas such as divorceallocation of parental responsibilities, and other family law matters. Our lawyers, Erin E. Masters and Anthony Joseph have been recognized by prestigious publications numerous times. This not only speaks volumes about their work but also their character.

Working with Masters Law Group

At Masters Law Group, we’re committed to helping you achieve the best outcome in your case. Our attorneys possess unique knowledge, experience, and talent in family law and divorce. With over ten years of experience handling family law cases, we know how important it is for our clients to feel comfortable. That’s why we offer free consultations, where you can meet before deciding whether to hire us.

Contact us to schedule a consultation today.

Divorce vs. Mediation – Which Path is Right for You?

When deciding how to handle a divorce, it’s important to consider the benefits of traditional divorce versus mediation. Each approach has its benefits and drawbacks, so understanding the differences is key to making the right choice for you and your family. 

Divorce can be emotionally challenging no matter where you are in life. Masters Law Group, based in DuPage County, Illinois, with offices in downtown Chicago, is committed to helping couples navigate these tough decisions and offers a comprehensive approach to divorce resolution. Here’s what you need to know.

Understanding Divorce

Divorce involves each party retaining their attorney to represent their interests in court. This process can be adversarial, with a judge often making negotiations and decisions if the parties cannot agree. There are three major types of divorce: contested, uncontested, and civil union. 

Contested divorce occurs when there are contentions between spouses and requires numerous steps. An uncontested divorce occurs when there is agreement on all aspects of the divorce. Civil union divorce follows similar divorce processes, but the couple leaves the state where they were granted civil union. Let’s take a look at some pros and cons of divorce.

Divorce Litigation Pros:

  1. Legal Advocacy: Each spouse has dedicated legal representation to navigate the complexities of divorce laws and procedures.
  2. Court Intervention: A judge can resolve disputes when the couple cannot reach agreements on their own.
  3. Protection in High-Conflict Situations: In high-conflict cases, where emotions run extremely high or concerns about safety and abuse arise, litigation may provide a more structured and protective environment. Court orders can include provisions for restraining orders, protective orders, and supervised visitation to help ensure the safety of all parties involved.

Divorce Litigation Cons:

  1. Longer Resolution Process: Laws vary by state, and the process begins with how long one has lived in the state before filing for a divorce. The process can vary depending on the type of divorce. Contested divorces usually take over a year to finalize—although divorces can be completed in as little as three months.
  2. Impact on Children: The contentious nature of traditional divorce can have a negative impact on the children involved, potentially leading to increased stress and emotional difficulties.
  3. Lengthy Resolution of Disputes: Divorce can take longer to resolve disputes over issues like property division or allocation of parental responsibilities, further prolonging the overall process.

Understanding Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation involves a neutral third-party mediator facilitating discussions between the spouses to reach mutually acceptable agreements. Unlike judges, a mediator cannot decide for you or your spouse. Their job is to keep you and your spouse focused on your needs and interests instead of faults.

When a couple begins divorce mediation, they choose the mediator in advance, or the court may appoint one. Both spouses provide documentation to support their viewpoints regarding disputed issues, while the mediator works with both sides to find a resolution. The mediator’s job is to reach an agreement between the two parties. Here are the pros and cons of divorce mediation.

Divorce Mediation Pros:

  1. Faster Resolution: Mediation often leads to a quicker resolution than a court-based divorce. Mediation sessions can be scheduled at the convenience of the parties involved, and they can work at their own pace, leading to a faster outcome.
  2. Reduced Conflict: Mediation often helps couples improve their communication skills and learn effective ways to resolve conflicts, which can lead to the resolution of family disputes.
  3. Reduced Post-Divorce Disputes: Because mediated agreements are reached through mutual understanding and cooperation, there may be fewer post-divorce disputes and a higher likelihood of compliance with the agreed-upon terms.

Divorce Mediation Cons:

  1. Voluntary Participation: Both parties must be willing to engage in meaningful negotiations for mediation to be successful.
  2. Potential Inequity: Without legal representation, one spouse may feel disadvantaged in negotiating legal and financial matters.
  3. Not Suitable for All Cases: Mediation may not be appropriate for high-conflict divorces or situations involving domestic abuse or significant power imbalances.

How a DuPage Divorce Attorney Can Help

Whether you choose traditional divorce or mediation, consulting with a skilled DuPage divorce attorney is crucial to protect your rights and interests. Masters Law Group’s divorce and mediation attorneys are fully prepared to advocate for you and your family. Here’s how our attorneys can help you:

  • Experienced Mediators: Erin E. Masters has been approved as a Mediator for the Cook County Domestic Relations Division and offers private mediation services. The firm’s mediation counselors have extensive experience in family law and are skilled in facilitating productive discussions between divorcing spouses.
  • Experienced Litigators: A skilled litigator has the experience to present your case effectively before the judge. They meticulously prepare legal arguments, gather evidence, and strategically plan to help secure your most favorable outcome.
  • Conflict Resolution: They are professionals in conflict resolution, focusing on finding peaceful solutions for both parties and their children.
  • Protecting Your Interests: Masters Law Group attorneys work to protect your legal rights and the best interests of you and your children.

Our senior attorneys, Erin E. Masters and Anthony G. Joseph, are highly esteemed professionals recognized by prestigious publications, including Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, and Leading Lawyers. This highly esteemed recognition provides you with trustworthy guidance during your divorce process.

Moving Forward With Confidence

Divorce is a difficult journey, but couples in DuPage County and across Illinois can access professional help to make the process smoother for everyone involved. Masters Law Group offers guidance on divorce and mediation, helping you find the best path forward for you and your family. We aim to help you achieve a resolution, allowing everyone to move onwards with peace of mind.

Contact us today to set up your complimentary consultation.

Every Parent’s Nightmare: International Parental Child Abduction

The thought of coming home from a long and hard day at the office only to discover that the unthinkable has happened – your foreign-born spouse has left the country and taken your child with them – is a devastating reality for a rising number of parents across the globe. If you are facing such a high-stakes and frightening scenario, here’s what you should know.

In this blog, we will explore five important pieces of information that help shed light on the legal, emotional, and practical aspects. Additionally, we’ll discuss how a child abduction attorney can be a lifeline in these challenging circumstances, offering advice and support throughout the process. 

1. Understanding International Parental Child Abduction

International parental child abduction occurs when one parent unlawfully takes their child from the other parent, often without legal authorization or against the court’s custody order. This act can lead to serious legal repercussions for the abducting parent. It’s crucial to recognize that parental child abduction constitutes a violation of both state and federal laws in many countries. 

There’s a common misconception that parental child abductions are less harmful because the child is with a parent or family member. However, legal systems typically view parental child abduction seriously, imposing consequences such as criminal charges, fines, and imprisonment for the abducting parent. Efforts are made to prioritize the child’s best interests and help ensure their safety in such circumstances.

2. Understanding its Impact on Families

According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 230,600* children are kidnapped by a family member each year. Several factors may contribute to international parental child abduction, including parental responsibility disputes, domestic violence, fear of losing access to the child, or cultural differences regarding parental rights. Abductions can occur during or after divorce or separation, and the motivations can vary widely depending on the specific circumstances of each case.

When a child is taken, the emotional and psychological toll on them is profound. The sudden separation from one parent and the uncertainty of their well-being can lead to severe distress, affecting the child’s well-being and development for years to come. The abducting parent may face serious legal consequences, including criminal charges, fines, and the possibility of imprisonment. Moreover, their actions could significantly diminish their chances of obtaining parental responsibilities in future court proceedings. If you find yourself in this situation, getting help from a child abduction attorney can help you protect your child’s best interests.

3. Navigating International Parental Child Abduction Procedures

Being familiar with the legal procedures related to international parental child abduction is crucial for taking swift action. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a key framework in addressing these cases.

The Hague Convention was enacted into law through the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (“ICARA”), which provides that a parent whose child has been wrongfully removed from or retained in the United States may petition for the child’s return to their country of habitual residence. This treaty involves over 91 countries and has designated Central Authorities from member countries to facilitate communication between nations handling abduction cases.

Child abduction attorneys with experience in international family law serve as valuable resources when navigating the Hague Convention. They can guide parents through the complexities of these procedures and help advocate for their children’s best interests.

4. Preventing Parental Child Abduction

Despite the existence of international treaties such as the Hague Convention, resolving cases of international parental child abduction can be challenging due to differing legal systems and varying interpretations of parental responsibilities. Some countries may not be part of the Hague Convention, making the recovery of abducted children more complex. Parents can take proactive steps to reduce the risk of abduction:

  • Establish a Parenting Plan: Without a parenting plan, no official documentation exists specifying where a child should be at any given time. This legal void can lead to situations where parents can, without repercussion, abandon their children or take them away without the explicit consent of the other parent, especially across international borders.
  • Document Parenting Arrangements: Keeping detailed records of parenting schedules can help resolve disputes and prevent the unauthorized removal of the child.
  • Establish Clear Communication: Maintain open and constructive communication with the other parent. Agree on communication methods and regular updates about the child’s well-being to foster trust and reduce conflict.

Consult a child abduction attorney to navigate complex legal situations across different jurisdictions. By taking proactive measures and staying informed, parents can significantly lower the risk of international parental child abduction and protect their children’s well-being.

5. How a Child Abduction Attorney Can Help

A child abduction attorney can be extremely helpful in cases involving the abduction of a child/children by one parent. When you partner with an experienced attorney, such as those at Masters Law Group, you gain the support needed to advocate for your family’s best interests. Here are some of the ways they can help:

Child abduction attorneys understand the emotional toll these cases can take on parents and children. With their help, you can better navigate the legal system and work toward a resolution protecting your family’s well-being.

Last Thoughts

International parental child abduction is a distressing reality faced by many families globally. The Hague Convention can be valuable for resolving abduction cases involving international borders and prioritizing their well-being. If you or someone you know is affected by this issue, seeking legal assistance and support is advised to navigate this area of international family law effectively. 

At Masters Law Group, our team of knowledgeable attorneys is here to help you through this process. Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph have extensive experience in cases involving international parental disputes in courts located in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system. 

To learn more about our featured Hague Convention Decisions, see here:

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.