Tag Archive for: International child abduction lawyers

International Child Custody: How Masters Can Help

Every year, children are wrongfully removed from the United States or retained outside of the U.S. in violation of parental custody rights. Whether trying to identify risk factors or your child/children have been removed from their habitual residence, knowing your legal options through The Hague Convention could prove detrimental in protecting victims involved. 

When Illinois courts determine custody arrangements, they ultimately consider the best interests of the child/children involved. However, what are often relatively simple custody matters can quickly become complicated when one parent moves out of the state or out of the country. Especially unlawfully.

If you need legal representation to protect your rights or the rights of your child, we can help. At our downtown Chicago law office, we represent parents and children in a variety of complex international custody disputes. Here’s what you need to know.

Negotiating International Child Custody Disputes

Parents who wish to move out of the country may do so by seeking a custody modification just as they would if they were moving out of state. Complications arise when a parent moves out of the country before a custody order is finalized or when a parent does so in violation of an existing order. When a parent moves out of the country in direct violation of a custody order, he or she is committing international parental child abduction.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction provides an expeditious method to return a child internationally abducted by a parent from one member country to another. The powerful international treaty that can yield beneficial results when it is implemented correctly and appropriately.

The Hague Convention

Many countries subscribe to the Hague Convention, which facilitates reciprocal agreements when it comes to custody. Although the Hague Convention does not ultimately decide custody cases, it does determine which jurisdiction or which country should hear the case. Generally, this is where the child had established familiar roots before his or her removal or abduction or, as the Convention calls it, the child’s “habitual residence.”

Because many countries do not have formalized laws regarding international child abductions and because there are so many variables involved with each case (such as whether or not both parents want custody), there are no hard-and-fast rules for international child abduction cases. Each situation must be evaluated on its own merits and in light of that particular nation’s laws and regulations regarding custody matters.

International parental abductions of U.S. children have been reported in countries all over the world, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, and the United Kingdom. A parent who is left behind when a child is abducted to another country faces daunting obstacles to finding and recovering the child.

A History of Success Serving Clients In Illinois and Internationally

Masters Law Group has extensive knowledge and experience with The Hague Convention 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. 

Our clients span across the entire United States, from Washington to Wisconsin; so you can rest assured knowing the experienced Masters Law Group attorneys are fighting for you and your family. Our attorneys understand the laws in these highly sensitive cases. Their priority is to ensure the kids return to safety and that they have the opportunity to exert their rights and obtain justice. 

Here are just a few of our featured Huage Cases:

How Our Firm Can Help

If you are in need of an international child abduction lawyer, we can help. The legal system is a complicated and confusing place. That’s why we’re here—to make sure that you understand your rights and options, so that you can make the best possible decisions for your family.

We can represent you if:

  • You live in the United States and your child has been abducted into a foreign country.
  • You live anywhere in the world and your child has been abducted into the United States.
  • You have been accused of international child abduction and need a lawyer to protect your parental rights.

We will carefully examine the facts to determine the strength of your case. We will give you straightforward advice so that you know exactly where you stand in the eyes of the law.

To learn more about your options, contact us to schedule a one-on-one appointment with our experienced lawyers, Erin E. Masters and Anthony G. Joseph. We understand that your children are your top priority. We will work aggressively to advocate on their behalf.

Contact Masters Law Group Today

Illinois is a community property state, which means that all of the marital property is divided equally between the spouses. This can have a significant impact on child custody arrangements, especially if one spouse intends to leave the state or country.

If you have found yourself in a situation where your former spouse has unlawfully fled the country with your child, you should contact your attorney right away. At Masters Law Group, we can handle the process of contacting domestic and international governments to ensure that your rights are being protected.

Our attorneys 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”). Our experienced attorneys will provide you with detail-oriented representation as each case is unique. Contact our Chicago office to schedule a consultation today.

The Muddy Waters of Financial Restitution Against Parental Abductors

In federal court, a convicted offender may be ordered to reimburse victims for financial losses incurred due to the offender’s crime. This reimbursement is called “restitution”. Parental International Child Abduction is against the law, however, the provisions of such cases are not crystal clear. Read on to learn more. 

Parental kidnapping on an international level is on the rise, and it has become a serious concern for many. We often wonder whether the law considers it a crime, and the answer is definitely “yes”.

Individual perpetrators may be held responsible for reparations in international criminal procedures, yet experiences to date demonstrate this to be an unlikely avenue for the majority of victims.

Under U.S. law, a left-behind parent whose child has been abducted to the United States can seek reimbursement from the abducting parent for the expenses incurred in seeking the child’s return. 22 U.S.C. §9007(b)(3).

However, there is no clear provision entitling a left-behind parent whose child has been abducted out of the United States to seek reimbursement from the abducting parent for the expenses incurred in seeking the child’s return to his or her home country.

Here’s what you need to know about financial restitution against parental abductors.

Gray Areas of Financial Restitution

Restitution is the practice of holding offenders accountable for the financial losses suffered by victims of their crimes. Restitution may be ordered in both juvenile and criminal courts to compensate victims for out-of-pocket expenses that are the direct result of a crime. When it comes to International Child Abduction cases through The Hague Convention, the Ninth and Tenth Circuits appear to disagree on whether federal law allowing restitution to crime victims can be used to recoup a left-behind parent’s legal expenses.

Examples of Financial Restitution

The Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982 permits a federal district court to order a criminal defendant to pay restitution to a victim in an amount up to “expenses related to participation in the investigation or prosecution of the offense.” 18 U.S.C. §3663(b)(4). But as you’ll read below, on appeal, the Tenth Circuit overturned the restitution award.

In 2002, U.S. v. Cummings, 281 F.3d 1046,  the defendant’s father was convicted of violating the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (IPKCA) by abducting his children from their home in Washington State to Germany. 

The mother who was left behind brought a return action against the father under the Hague Abduction Convention and an action in Washington State for contempt of court for violating a custody order. The father was sentenced to jail time, ordered to pay the mother’s legal fees and expenses, and required to participate in counseling.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the restitution award, holding that the mother’s civil cases were not “wholly separate” from the government’s prosecution of the father. This was supported by the fact that, by initiating a case under the Hague Convention, the mother had followed the procedure specifically described in the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act as the preferred “option of first choice” for a left-behind parent.

In 2020, U.S. v. Mobley, 971 F.3d 1187, did not follow the Cummings verdict. In Mobley, the government prosecuted a mother under the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (IPKCA) for her abduction of her children from their home in Kansas to Russia. Once she was in Russia, she filed for divorce and custody; the left-behind father then sued for divorce and custody in Kansas. 

The Russia court had given custody to the mother, and the Kansas Court gave custody to the father. The district court found the mother guilty under the IPKCA and ordered restitution to the father of legal fees and expenses that he incurred in connection with both civil cases.

However, on appeal, the Tenth Circuit held that the trial court erred in awarding restitution under 18 U.S.C. §3663 because the expenses incurred were not related to the investigation or prosecution of the mother’s criminal offense. It held that these terms are limited to proceedings related to the government’s investigation or prosecution and those proceedings related to attendance at court related to such matters. 

The evidence showed that while there was no evidence that the government sanctioned or directed the father’s civil proceedings, there was also no evidence that his suit assisted in any way in the criminal prosecution against the mother.

Based on the analysis of the current state of international law, it is clear that the state has positive duties to prevent violations and demonstrate due diligence. But there’s a long way to go.

How Masters Law Group Can Help

There is an increasing trend in favor of enabling individual victims of violations of international humanitarian law to seek reparation directly from the responsible State. However, the water is muddy to say the least. In future cases, the recent codification of international criminal law has significantly influenced the discourse on post-conflict justice, while legal research on post-conflict justice has been inspired by the rapid developments in international justice mechanisms. As a result, much focus has been on the accountability of perpetrators, in particular, in the application of universal jurisdiction.

The family law attorneys at Masters Law Group are highly experienced with international parental child abduction disputes. If you believe your child is at threat of being abducted by a parent, legal guardian, or someone acting on their behalf, contact us today for a consultation.

For more information on our recent Hague Decisions, see here:

International Parental Abduction

International parental child abduction is an act of illegally taking a child from their home. Usually by one of the parents, but it can also be done by an acquaintance or another member of the family, and taking him to another county. Here’s what you need to know about this growing problem. 

When parents report that their children have been abducted or retained outside of the United States, country officers inform them of potential options and provide resources to help them seek the return of, or access to, their children. International Parental Abduction is more common than you think.

In 2020, country officers responded to 157 initial inquiries in which parents sought information and resources regarding abductions, but did not proceed with providing complete documentation. Country officers handled 664 total outgoing abduction cases, including 246 cases opened in 2020. Of those cases,129 were resolved with the return of 185 abducted children to the United States.

Here’s a look at the Hague Abduction Convention, and what you should know about International Parental Abduction.

Is Your Child at Risk for An International Abduction?

There’s certain traits and characteristics of offending parents that make it easier to spot if they are capable of abduction your child. It is important to remember that these signs do not necessarily mean that your child’s other parent is going to abduct your child; these are signs that you need to make sure you are being more aware of. Here are some examples below:

  • Parents who threaten to abduct their children and/or have abducted their children before.
  • Parents who believe their children are being abused and have a support group that also believes this.
  • Parents with paranoia or sociopathic tendencies.
  • Parents with strong ties and family support in another country.
  • Parents frustrated with the legal system in the United States who have supportive family and friends.

It’s not unusual for a parent who abducts their child to believe that they know what is best for the child. Young children are the easiest to abduct because they don’t know to go for help or do anything to bring attention to their parents taking them.  Some other warning signs and factors that are important to be aware of are:

  • A parent with no source of income/job.
  • A parent who is financially independent.
  • A parent with no real ties to the community they live in.
  • A parent who abruptly quits their job, sells their home, applies for passports.
  • A parent who starts collecting the child’s medical and school records.
  • A parent who has domestic violence and/or child abuse history.

Protecting Your Child From International Parental Abduction

When developing a child custody order, it is important that the order be very specific in regard to the rights of each parent. You should avoid vague phrases like “reasonable visitation” because the word reasonable can be interpreted differently.. Joint custody should also be avoided if there has been any history of abduction or the risk of abduction is high.  

Your court order should include why the court has jurisdiction in the matter of your child and state that both parents were given the opportunity to present their case to the court regarding custody. In order for your court order to be able to be enforced nationwide, the court’s exercise of their jurisdiction has to comply with the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA).

Your court order can specify that your child is not allowed to leave the state you reside in without written consent from the other parent.  

The court order can also ban a parent from applying for a passport for your child.  If your child already has a passport, the court can require that the passport be surrendered. If you have information that your child would most likely be taken to a specific country, you can notify that embassy or consulate and provide them with the court order to request any visa requests for your child be denied.

If the risk to your child being abducted by their other parent is high, the court is typically more likely to put protections in the court order to prevent abduction. The court looks at the following factors: risk of abduction is high, recovering the child would be very difficult, and the abduction would be harmful to the child.

Some additional steps to lower the risk of parental abduction or increase your odds recovering your child if they are abducted would be:

  • Have up-to-date pictures of your child.
  • Have 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.
  • Fingerprints of your child.
  • Have your child/children learn how to use a telephone and how to call the police.
  • Keep schools, daycares, and other child care providers informed of current custody orders.
  • Register your child with the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP).

International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA)


The International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA), is a multi-lateral treaty developed by the Hague Convention on Private International Law.

ICARA is United States federal law that implements the HAC between American states and American states internationally with other countries.  It went into effect in 1988.

When a child is alleged removed from his/her habitual residence, or a parent is not allowed his/her visitation with a child under a previous legal agreement, that child’s parent can now bring an action in local court under ICARA.  After a showing of the other parent’s wrongdoing, the alleged wrongdoer must show to the court one of the following:

  • that the person requesting the return of the child was not actually exercising custody’ at the time of the removal or retention;
  • that the person requesting the return of the child had consented to or acquiesced in the removal or retention;
  • that more than one year has passed from the time of wrongful removal or retention until the date of the commencement of judicial or administrative proceedings;
  • that the child is old enough and has a sufficient degree of maturity to knowingly object to the person requesting the return of the child, and that it is appropriate to heed that objection;
  • that there is grave risk that the child’s return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation; or
  • that return of the child would subject the child to violation of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Attempting to have one’s child returned to his/her care or to be able to exercise one’s visitation rights either by state to state or from state to an international country is very complicated.  It is highly recommended that a professional family law attorney be retained to navigate the legalities involved.

Child Custody and Visitation Matters


With the exception of international parental abduction, child custody and visitation matters are handled by local and state authorities, and not by the federal government. The matters are governed by the relevant state family court system and human services agency. Therefore, child custody or visitation issues should be reported to state or local law enforcement authorities or a state judicial officer.

In addition to contacting the Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues, law enforcement or left-behind parents should also contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (“NCMEC”): www.missingkids.org. NCMEC works closely with the State Department and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime and administers its Victim Reunification Travel Program. Eligible parents can request financial assistance so they can be reunited with a child located in another country or obtain travel support for the child’s return to the United States.

Finally, seeking a family law firm who are highly experienced in cases involving international child custody disputes (in both courts located in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system) could be an invaluable resource in this incredibly stressful time.

Additional Resources on International Parental Abduction

Final Thoughts

Many countries throughout the world, including the United States, belong to the Hague Convention, and will negotiate treaties to help streamline international justice. When family law disputes cross international boundaries, it is essential to have the help from a knowledgeable family law attorney who understands all of the legalities that go along with international child custody cases.

Our attorneys, Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph, 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”). 

See Our Featured Hague Decisions Here:

Contact us here today to learn more.

Who Does the Hague Convention Apply To?

If you believe you might be facing the terrifying situation of International Child Abduction, you will need to determine whether the Hague Convention treaty is “in force” between the U.S. and the other country involved. 

In a nutshell, the Hague Abduction Convention is an international agreement to safeguard intercountry adoptions. An application may be made when a child is taken or retained across an international border, away from his or her habitual residence, without the consent of a parent who has rights of custody under the law of the habitual residence, if the two countries are parties to the Convention. The child must be promptly returned to the habitual residence unless the return will create a grave risk of harm to the child or another limited exception is established.

The Convention has the child’s best interest, and provides a shared civil remedy among partner countries. Depending on where your child was taken determines whether the Convention is “in force” between nations. It is therefore important to determine whether the Convention is in force with the particular country in question and when the Convention went into force between the U.S. and the other country.

HAGUE CONVENTION & ITS BACKGROUND

The Hague Convention is essentially a treaty that many countries, along with the US have joined. On May 29, 1993, the Convention established international standards of practices for intercountry adoptions. The United States signed the Convention in 1994, and the Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008. 

How do you determine whether the treaty is “in force” between the U.S. and the other country involved? The Federal Judicial Center explains with the following:

‘The issue of whether the Convention is “in force” between states can be complex. There are differences in the processes by which a state can be bound by the treaty, specifically between those who are “member states” and those who become “party states.” 

Member states are states that were members of The Hague Conference on Private International Law at the time of adoption of the Child Abduction Convention at the 14th Session in 1980.

The differences between the two is the following:

  • Actions by member states include ratifications, approvals, or acceptances.
  • Party states are all other countries that agree to be bound by the Convention and “accede” to the Convention.

For member states, the ratification by one member state causes the convention to automatically come into force between that ratifying member state and all other previously ratifying member states. However, when a member state ratifies the Convention, the Convention does not automatically enter into force between that state and a party state that has acceded to the convention.

The treaty “enters into force” between two countries when they are both bound by the Convention. In order for the Convention to enter into force between a member state and a party state, the member state must expressly accept the accession by the party state. 

The same applies to the accession of one party state vis-á-vis another acceding party state; that is, the accession must be specifically accepted by the previously acceding party state.’

101 states are a party to the convention. Like extradition treaties, some countries that have signed a Hague Convention treaty with the United States are noncompliant or refuse to hold up the terms of the treaty.

LIST OF U.S HAGUE CONVENTION TREATY PARTNERS

Below are the countries that participate in the Hague Convention and are “in force” with the United States of America. You can find the official list with dates and more here.

country pop2022 hagueConventionEntryDate
Andorra 77.463 1/1/2017
Argentina 46010.234 6/1/1991
Armenia 2971.966 3/1/2018
Australia 26068.792 7/1/1988
Austria 9066.71 10/1/1988
Bahamas 400.516 1/1/1994
Belgium 11668.278 5/1/1999
Belize 412.19 11/1/1989
Bosnia and Herzegovina 3249.317 12/1/1991
Brazil 215353.593 12/1/2003
Bulgaria 6844.597 2005/01//01
Burkina Faso 22102.838 11/1/1992
Canada 38388.419 7/1/1988
Chile 19250.195 7/1/1994
Colombia 51512.762 6/1/1996
Costa Rica 5182.354 1/1/2008
Croatia 4059.286 12/1/1991
Cyprus 1223.387 3/1/1995
Czech Republic 10736.784 3/1/1998
Denmark 5834.95 7/1/1991
Dominican Republic 11056.37 6/1/2007
Ecuador 18113.361 4/1/1992
El Salvador 6550.389 6/1/2007
Estonia 1321.91 5/1/2007
Fiji 909.466 5/1/2017
Finland 5554.96 8/1/1994
France 65584.518 7/1/1988
Germany 83883.596 12/1/1990
Greece 10316.637 6/1/1993
Guatemala 18584.039 1/1/2008
Honduras 10221.247 6/1/1994
Hong Kong 7604.299 9/1/1997
Hungary 9606.259 7/1/1988
Iceland 345.393 12/1/1996
Ireland 5020.199 10/1/1991
Israel 8922.892 12/1/1991
Italy 60262.77 5/1/1995
Jamaica 2985.094 4/1/2019
Japan 125584.838 4/1/2014
Latvia 1848.837 5/1/2007
Lithuania 2661.708 5/1/2007
Luxembourg 642.371 7/1/1988
Macau 667.49 3/1/1999
Malta 444.033 2/1/2003
Mauritius 1274.727 10/1/1993
Mexico 131562.772 10/1/1991
Monaco 39.783 6/1/1993
Montenegro 627.95 12/1/1991
Morocco 37772.756 12/1/2012
Netherlands 17211.447 9/1/1990
New Zealand 4898.203 10/1/1991
Norway 5511.37 4/1/1989
Panama 4446.964 6/1/1994
Paraguay 7305.843 1/1/2008
Peru 33684.208 6/1/2007
Poland 37739.785 11/1/1992
Portugal 10140.57 7/1/1988
Romania 19031.335 6/1/1993
Saint Kitts and Nevis 53.871 6/1/1995
San Marino 34.085 1/1/2008
Serbia 8653.016 12/1/1991
Singapore 5943.546 5/1/2012
Slovakia 5460.193 2/1/2001
Slovenia 2078.034 4/1/1995
South Africa 60756.135 11/1/1997
South Korea 51329.899 11/1/2013
Spain 46719.142 7/1/1988
Sri Lanka 21575.842 1/1/2008
Sweden 10218.971 6/1/1989
Switzerland 8773.637 7/1/1988
Thailand 70078.203 4/1/2016
Trinidad and Tobago 1406.585 8/1/2013
Turkey 85561.976 8/1/2000
Ukraine 43192.122 9/1/2007
United Kingdom 68497.907 7/1/1988
Uruguay 3496.016 9/1/2004
Venezuela 29266.991 1/1/1997
Zimbabwe 15331.428 8/1/1995

Export the list here. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Most of the world, including the United States, belongs to the Hague Convention, and they will negotiate treaties to help streamline international justice. When family law disputes cross international boundaries, it is essential to have the help from a knowledgeable family law attorney who understands all of the laws that go along with child custody cases.

Our attorneys, Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph, 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. 

Browse Our Featured Hague Decisions:

Contact us here today to set up a complimentary consultation.

 

MASTERS LAW GROUP CASE REVIEW: HAGUE CONVENTION ON CIVIL ASPECTS OF INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION: NEW ZEALAND

In one of our most recent Hague Convention cases, the attorneys at Masters Law Group succeeded in this landmark ruling in favor of our client.

The husband – represented by Masters Law Group –  filed a petition for the return of his child who 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 his or her country of habitual residence.

CASE OVERVIEW

On June 18, 2020, Respondent and the child traveled on round-trip tickets from New Zealand to Chicago, via Los Angeles, for a one-month trip. Respondent and the child had tickets to return to New Zealand on July 17, 2020, via Los Angeles, arriving in New Zealand on July 19, 2020 via Air New Zealand. The Petitioner worried and speculated to the Respondent that she might not come back from the United States with their child, despite her denials of leaving permanently. The Respondent did not get on the flights back to New Zealand with their son.

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.

The Act entitles 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.

CASE RESULTS

By agreement of the parties and as required by the Convention, the Court Court concludes that the child was a habitual resident of New Zealand at the time of the wrongful retention in the United States, Petitioner had and was exercising custody rights under New Zealand law, and the “grave risk” exception was not established in this case.

Accordingly, the Court finds that the child must be returned to New Zealand, and grants the Petition for return of the child, [dkt. 1].

The Court allowed an approximate one-week time period to avoid any abrupt transition for the child.

READ THE FULL CASE REVIEW HERE.

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HAGUE CONVENTION – INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION LAW WITH MASTERS LAW GROUP

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.

Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph 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.

SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION

If you are faced with instituting or defending child abduction proceedings under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in the United States, work with the experienced lawyers at Masters Law Group. Contact us here today to schedule a consultation.

 

 

What Does a Family Law Attorney Cover?

Most people will use the terms “Family Law” and “Divorce Lawyer” interchangeably with each other.  The truth, however, is that Divorce Law is only one aspect of Family Law. 

What is family law and what do family lawyers do? Family law is a legal practice area that focuses on issues involving family relationships, such as adoption, divorce, and child custody, among others. Therefore, family law attorneys are legal professionals that specialize in these specific matters. Family lawyers can also act as mediators when family disagreements develop and represent litigants in family conflicts that end up in courts.

Below are some of the things that an experienced and reputable family law attorney can do for you.

Child Custody/Child Support agreements

In the hardest of times when a couple separates, one of the most challenging problems to solve is children.

Court orders and settlement agreements involving both custody and support usually are included in the larger divorce case, but may be revisited as conditions change. For instance, child support may be altered after the non-custodial parent’s financial situation changes.

A child support order is determined by what is reasonable and necessary for the support of the child or children. It is presumed that the guideline support amounts represent the amount of support that is reasonable and necessary, unless it can be demonstrated to the court that circumstances exist that would make the guideline amount inappropriate.

Divorce and Divorce Mediation

Undergoing a divorce is probably one of the most draining experiences that a family can face, and divorce cases involving substantial assets or complex estates require specialized knowledge. A good divorce attorney is skilled at dividing marital property, calculating spousal support, and proposing a plan for child custody, visitation, and support (if applicable).

Attorneys can also cover divorce mediation. Divorce Mediators work with a couples involved in family break-ups to make arrangements, either to plan for a separation or divorce, or after the split has taken place, without the need for court intervention.

Domestic Violence Protection

Domestic violence is described as abusive behavior when a family or household member uses physical or mental maltreatment toward another family or household member. The IDVA uses the following terms as abuse:

1. Physical abuse
2. Harassment
3. Intimidation of a dependent
4. Interference with personal liberty
5. Willful deprivation
6. Exploitation
7. Stalking

An Order of Protection is a court order made in writing which prohibits, by law, further abusive behavior.

Who are persons considered to be family or household members?
The IDVA defines members to include:

1. A spouse
2. Ex-spouse
3. Girlfriend/boyfriend who have or have had a dating or engagement relationship
4. Parents
5. Children
6. Stepchildren
7. Significant other/partner
8. Persons who share or allege to have a blood relationship through a child
9. Persons who live together or formerly lived together
10. Persons with disabilities and their personal assistants

International Child Abduction (Hague Convention)

Although not a common practice for most family lawyers, some specific attorneys have the knowledge, experience and skills in Hague Convention cases to take on international parental child abduction cases. 

The Hague Convention is a treaty that many countries, including the United States, have joined. Its purpose is to protect children from the harmful effects of international abduction by a parent. Proving claims in international child abduction cases under the Hague Abduction Convention requires analysis and careful development of all evidence and testimony that may support or defeat defenses to claims of wrongful abduction or retention. Therefore, choosing an attorney who has extensive experience in cases involving international child custody disputes is vital.

Reasons to Hire a Family Law Attorney

Now that you know what a family law attorney is, you’re probably wondering how hiring legal representation in your family law case would benefit you. Here are the major benefits that come with hiring a family lawyer.

Legal Protection

How realistic are the claims coming from the other party? Can the other party actually receive what they’re stating they’ll receive? A family law attorney knows the law, as well as the outcomes of past verdicts, and can use that knowledge to help you receive the best possible outcome.

Legal Knowledge

There’s a lot of red tape and substantial paperwork when it comes to family law proceedings. And that’s before it goes to trial. By hiring a family law attorney, you can rest assured the t’s crossed and i’s dotted. Consequently, you will not have to sweat about your case being thrown out as early as possible.

Court Experience

If a case goes to court, experienced attorneys can make sure that their client is prepared for everything that is going to happen when they enter the courtroom room, and will know exactly how to handle any particular situation that arises during the pendency of a family law case. This will keep the judge happy and the proceedings running smoothly and efficiently.

Peace of Mind

Ultimately, one of the best benefits of hiring a family law attorney to represent your interests in a case is the fact that you will be able to trust your legal issues are being duly dealt with. Whenever you have an issue or a family matter that requires legal representation, it’s essential to seek the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced professional.

Last Words

There are areas of Family Law that involve people who are involved in Civil Unions, Domestic Partnerships, and same-sex relationships.  As a Chicago-based Family Law practice, we can ensure that the appropriate contracts and agreements are in place to help to avoid any issues in the future.

If you are facing a family law issue, contact the family law attorneys at Masters Law Group. Our firm handles family law matters in Cook County and surrounding counties. Masters Law Group concentrates in area of domestic relations, which includes divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities, child support and related family matters.

We offer a wide range of services tailored to our clients’ unique legal needs. Masters Law Group LLC has a unique depth of knowledge, experience and talent in the Family Law and Divorce field. Click here to view our practice areas. And click here to set up a consultation today.

What Can Be Done About International Parental Abduction

Every day, children are wrongfully removed from the United States or retained outside of the United States in violation of parental rights. Whether trying identifying risk factors or your child/children have been removed from their habitual residence, knowing your legal options through The Hague Convention could prove detrimental in protecting victims involved. 

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction provides an expeditious method to return a child internationally abducted by a parent from one member country to another. The powerful international treaty that can yield beneficial results when it is implemented correctly and appropriately.

THE HISTORY OF THE HAGUE CONVENTION

The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“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 his or her country of habitual residence.

“International parental [abduction] can have serious emotional, psychological, and even physical consequences for the abducted child.”

A Law Enforcement Guide on International Parental Kidnapping, U.S. Department of Justice (July 2018), page 3.

This multilateral treaty was developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) and concluded on October 25, 1980, entering into force on December 1, 1983.

These participating countries are also included in a large treaty that governs the way different legal systems work together. There were two specific goals in mind at the time of The Hague Services Convention’s formation:

  • Create a means to ensure that judicial and extrajudicial documents to be served abroad can be brought to the notice of the addressee in sufficient time.
  • Improve the organization of mutual judicial assistance.

According to the Convention, the removal or retention of a child is “wrongful” whenever it breaches the rights of custody attributed to a person or any other body and if at the time of remove or retention those rights were actually exercised. Even if a parent already has legal custody of a child, the Convention is needed because U.S. court orders may not be recognized in other countries and sovereign nations cannot interfere with each other’s legal systems, judiciaries, or law enforcement.

PREVENTION TIPS

There are several tips to try and prevent international child abduction from taking place. As per Travel.State.Gov:

  • Take action if you think the other parent has taken your child.
  • Get a court order or custody decree: A clear court order may be the most important preventative measure. For example, court orders may include provisions addressing passports, travel restrictions, or custody.
  • Consult an attorney: We strongly encourage parents to consult with an attorney regarding their particular circumstances, including the possibility of obtaining an order that prohibits the child from traveling outside of the United States.
  • Be aware of warning signs: Be on the alert for sudden changes in the other parent’s life, such as quitting a job or selling a home, that may be made in preparation to relocate. For more information, click on the Travel.State.Gov Resources for Parents page.
  • Notify local law enforcement and give them copies of any court orders, including custody, protection, and restraining orders.
  • Consider contacting a country’s foreign embassy or consulate if your child is or may be a dual national of that country. If one parent is a citizen of another country, for example, your child may have claims to a foreign nationality and therefore be able to obtain a passport from that country. See the Travel.State.Gov FAQs for more information on dual nationality.
  • Be aware the United States does not have exit controls or require two-parent consent for a minor to travel across international borders. Law enforcement may be unable to prevent an abduction without a valid court order clearly prohibiting the child’s travel outside of the United States.

RETURNING OF THE CHILD/CHILDREN

International parental abductions of U.S. children have been reported in countries all over the world, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, and the United Kingdom. A parent who is left behind when a child is abducted to another country faces daunting obstacles to finding and recovering the child.

The return of internationally abducted children is often settled through negotiation or with the left-behind parent filing a civil petition pursuant through the Hague Convention. Deciding whether to file a Hague application is an important decision and must be considered based on each case’s specific circumstances. Perhaps after separating from their partner, a parent wants to take their child and move to another country. Maybe a parent moved internationally in violation of a custody agreement.

Filing a case under the Convention does not guarantee that your child will be returned. To obtain the return of your child, through a Hague proceeding, you must first be able to demonstrate:

  • That your child was habitually resident in one Convention country, and was wrongfully removed to or retained in another Convention country;
  • The removal or retention of your child is considered wrongful if it was in violation of your custodial rights, and you were exercising those rights at the time of the removal or retention, or you would have been exercising them but for the removal or retention.
  • The Convention must have been in force between the two countries when the wrongful removal or retention occurred (the dates are different for every country); (Note: In many  instances, when a country accedes to the Convention, it is not automatically partners with all of the other countries who have ratified or acceded to the Convention.  Countries must accept another county’s accession to the Convention under the terms described in the Convention before a treaty partnership is created.
  • The child is under the age of 16.

OUTCOMES

If a court decides that a child must be returned to its country of habitual residence, it may make the return contingent upon certain “undertakings” from the petitioning parent. These may include: 

  • A requirement that the petitioner pay for the respondent and child to travel to the country where the child habitually resides.
  • A requirement that the petitioner make appropriate housing arrangements for the respondent and child in the country where the child habitually resides.
  • A requirement that the petitioner pay living expenses for the respondent and child in the country of the child’s habitual residence.
  • An order that the petitioner have no contact with the respondent if the respondent returns to the country of the child’s habitual residence.
  • An order that the petitioner will have no contact or limited (e.g., supervised) contact with the child once the child returns to the country of the habitual residence.

As you can see, 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 attorney.

CHOOSING YOUR ATTORNEY

To make sure you have the best possible chance in your Hague Convention case, you need an attorney who understands both the dire circumstances and the delicate interplay of state, federal, and international laws.

Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph of Masters Law Group have extensive experience in cases involving international child abduction disputes in both courts located in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system.

Read the details of our most recent successful Hague Convention case here. Furthermore, see what our clients have to say on representing their Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction case:

Anthony Joseph and Erin litigated my Hague Convention federal court case and, after a terrifying and tiring few months, we won our case!! If I didn’t have the direction and focus of these two we wouldn’t have won. Anthony is a shark, no one will work harder and smarter and know every detail in the court like this man. AND ERIN!!!!! She is dotting all the i’s and crossing the T’s. Not one thing will get by her. She thinks outside the box and will find a solution to every problem. They way they work together, the other side doesn’t have a chance in court. Because of these two my children are safe with me in the USA and we won an extremely difficult to win case. 9/10 times the children have to go back to the country they were taken from, in this case it was Mexico. I had the odds stacked against me hugely. It’s very difficult to get any judge to side with the person who left with the children. Because of their expertise in Hague, they found the important details to keep my kids and myself away from our abuser who tried to get us back into the scary situation we were living in. THANK YOU TO YOU BOTH. Every day I’m grateful for them changing my life. When something this is important is at stake it is imperative you choose great counsel. And Masters Law Group is it.

– Sharon H, Hague Convention Client Testimonial

Instead of trying to figure out international law issues alone, contact the Family Law Attorneys at Masters Law Group. Our experienced team will help you navigate the legal complexities of your case and are committed to vigorously representing you in these frightening, high-stakes proceedings.

Contact us to schedule your consultation here today. 

USA Accepts Pakistan’s Accession to the Hague Convention: International Child Abduction.

The United States has now accepted Pakistan’s accession to the 1980 Hague Abduction Convention. The Convention was entered into force between the two countries on October 1, 2020.

What is the Hague Convention?

According to the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), nearly 800,000 children are reported missing each year. That is more than 2,000 a day. The NCMEC says that 203,000 children are kidnapped each year by family members.

The convention is a multilateral treaty that establishes proceedings for the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed or kept away from their home country.

Currently, there are 98 contracting states to the Hague Convention.

Previous Issues with Pakistan

Pakistan has been consistently non-compliant with international norms concerning the return of children who are abducted to Pakistan. In prior years, the U.S. State Department reported frequently to Congress that that was the case.

It is also essential to understand that the Convention contains no provisions that will require recognition and enforcement of foreign custody orders. However, the compliance has been welcomed by the United States with hopes of a brighter future.

United States Accept Pakistan’s Accession

On October 1 2020, The United States accepted Pakistan’s accession to the 1980 Hague Abduction Convention.

The department said on its website, the US accepted Pakistan’s accession to the convention on July 1. It said that the convention would put in place an internationally recognized legal framework to resolve cases of parental child abduction between the two countries.

As partners, we will enhance our shared commitment to protecting children and open a new chapter in the vibrant US-Pakistan relationship…Preventing and resolving cases of international parental child abduction is one of the Department’s highest priorities.

The Department will continue to engage with Pakistani government officials regarding the partnership:

We look forward to welcoming Pakistan as a new partner in this global effort to address international parental child abduction.

If you need assistance with issues regarding International Child Abduction. You don’t have to go it alone.

Schedule a Consultation with Masters Law Group

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.

Masters Law Group has comprehensive 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.

Contact us here today to schedule a consultation.

Navigating The Hague Convention – International Child Abduction

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction provides an expeditious method to return a child internationally abducted by a parent from one member country to another. The powerful international treaty that can yield beneficial results when it is implemented correctly and appropriately.

The History of the Hague Convention

The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“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 his or her country of habitual residence.

This multilateral treaty was developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) and concluded on October 25, 1980, entering into force on December 1, 1983.

These participating countries are also included in a large treaty that governs the way different legal systems work together. There were two specific goals in mind at the time of The Hague Services Convention’s formation:

  • Create a means to ensure that judicial and extrajudicial documents to be served abroad can be brought to the notice of the addressee in sufficient time.
  • Improve the organization of mutual judicial assistance.

According to the Convention, the removal or retention of a child is “wrongful” whenever it breaches the rights of custody attributed to a person or any other body and if at the time of remove or retention those rights were actually exercised. Even if a parent already has legal custody of a child, the Convention is needed because U.S. court orders may not be recognized in other countries and sovereign nations cannot interfere with each other’s legal systems, judiciaries, or law enforcement.

As of July 2019, there are 101 states are a party to the convention.

Initiating the Process

Deciding whether to file a Hague application is an important decision and must be considered based on each case’s specific circumstances. Perhaps after separating from their partner, a parent wants to take their child and move to another country. Maybe a parent moved internationally in violation of a custody agreement.

Filing a case under the Convention does not guarantee that your child will be returned. To obtain the return of your child, through a Hague proceeding, you must first be able to demonstrate:

  • That your child was habitually resident in one Convention country, and was wrongfully removed to or retained in another Convention country;
  • The removal or retention of your child is considered wrongful if it was in violation of your custodial rights, and you were exercising those rights at the time of the removal or retention, or you would have been exercising them but for the removal or retention.
  • The Convention must have been in force between the two countries when the wrongful removal or retention occurred (the dates are different for every country); (Note: In many  instances, when a country accedes to the Convention, it is not automatically partners with all of the other countries who have ratified or acceded to the Convention.  Countries must accept another county’s accession to the Convention under the terms described in the Convention before a treaty partnership is created.
  • The child is under the age of 16.

Defenses/Objections

If the conditions for the return of a child to the country of habitual residence are established, there are at least six possible defenses, or exceptions to the mandatory return of a child. The burden of proof rests firmly upon the parent who opposes the return.

Under the Convention, a court may deny return of an abducted child if one of the following defenses apply:

  • There is a grave risk that the child’s return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation;
  • The child objects to being returned and has attained an age and degree of maturity at which the court can take account of the child’s views; or
  • More than one year has passed since the wrongful removal or retention occurred and the child has become settled in his or her new environment.
  • The party seeking return consented to or subsequently acquiesced to the child’s removal or retention.
  • The return would violate the fundamental principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country where the child is being held.
  • The party seeking return was not actually exercising rights of custody at the time of the wrongful removal or retention;

Note: Interpretation of these exceptions varies from country to country.

Outcomes

If a court decides that a child must be returned to its country of habitual residence, it may make the return contingent upon certain “undertakings” from the petitioning parent. These may include: 

  • A requirement that the petitioner pay for the respondent and child to travel to the country where the child habitually resides.
  • A requirement that the petitioner make appropriate housing arrangements for the respondent and child in the country where the child habitually resides.
  • A requirement that the petitioner pay living expenses for the respondent and child in the country of the child’s habitual residence.
  • An order that the petitioner have no contact with the respondent if the respondent returns to the country of the child’s habitual residence.
  • An order that the petitioner will have no contact or limited (e.g., supervised) contact with the child once the child returns to the country of the habitual residence.

As you can see, 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 attorney.

Why Choose Masters Law Group?

International custody issues can be incredibly difficult to deal with as a parent because of the concern you have for the safety and security of your child, and should be handled properly by a knowledgeable attorney.

Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph have extensive experience in cases involving international child custody disputes and kidnapping in both courts located in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system.

Read the details of our most recent successful Hague Convention case here. Furthermore, see what our clients have to say on representing their Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction case:

 

I had a very difficult case in the United States Federal Court. My ex husband filed a Petition against me under the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child abduction asking to return our two sons to Lithuania. Seeking for the legal representation, I was advised by the U.S. Department of State to contact lawyer Erin E. Masters. I was so lucky to have the team of the best lawyers Erin E. Masters and Anthony G. Joseph representing me in this difficult trial.

They represented with the highest standards of law, but also provided support and empathy through the process. The communication was fantastic, always answered every question, explained every situation and possible outcome. As it was a very fast track case, Erin and Anthony worked hard including weekends to prepare everything for the hearing. There was only one hearing and the Decision was totally in my favor. All my family, especially the kids, are very grateful! It is also fair to mention that the legal expenses for the amount of services provided was very very reasonable. Taking in mind my difficult financial situation, Erin even agreed to provide the service for the reduced fee.

I will gladly recommend Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph to represent any of my friends and family in need of an excellent and highly professional family attorney.

— Aistė Šulcaitė

Final Thoughts

Instead of trying to figure out international law issues alone, contact the Family Law Attorneys at Masters Law Group. Our experienced team will help you navigate the legal complexities of your case and are committed to vigorously representing you in these frightening, high-stakes proceedings.

Contact us to schedule your consultation here today. 

Masters Law Group Case Review: Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a treaty between signatory countries (or “contracting states”) that provides for the prompt return of an abducted child to his or her country of habitual residence. Here, Masters Law Group fought, and won a landmark ruling in favor of our client.

CASE OVERVIEW

The husband filed a petition for the return of his two children, (a two year old and eight-month old) who were taken from their residence in Mexico to Wisconsin, USA by his wife – the mother of the two children – represented by Masters Law Group LLC in the Eastern District of Wisconsin United States District Court where the Law Firm of Conway, Olejniczak & Jerry, S.C. served as local counsel.

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.

The Act entitles 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.

CASE DETAILS

In this case, the mother removed the children from where the family was living in Mexico, and took them to Wisconsin.. The father then commenced an action for the return of the children under the Hague Convention. For the reasons that follow, the Court denied the father’s petition.

CASE RESULTS

ICARA AND THE HAGUE CONVENTION Under the ICARA, a petitioner seeking return of a child must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the child has been wrongfully removed or retained within the meaning of the Convention.

The removal or retention of a child is to be considered wrongful where – (a) it is a breach of rights of custody attributed to a person, an institution or any other body, either jointly or alone, under the law of the State in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention; and (b) at the time of removal or retention those rights were actually exercised, either jointly or alone, or would have been so exercised but for the removal or retention.

But “[b]ecause children, especially those too young or otherwise unable to acclimate, depend on their parents as caregivers,” the Monasky Court noted that “the intentions and circumstances of caregiving parents are relevant considerations.” Id. at 727. Importantly, with respect to children, the Court explained that “an infant’s ‘mere physical presence’ . . . is not a dispositive indicator of an infant’s habitual residence.” Id. at 729. “No single fact, however, is dispositive across all cases.”

Based on the foregoing case details (found here),details the court found that the grave risk exception applied and held that returning the children to Mexico and separating them from their mother would expose them to a grave risk of psychological harm or otherwise place them in an intolerable situation. Case 1:20-cv-01028-WCG Filed 10/16/20 Page 9 of 10 Document 102.

CONCLUSION

In sum, the court found that the father has failed to meet his burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that his children were habitual residents of Mexico. In addition, the court found by clear and convincing evidence 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 the children in the United States was not wrongful within the meaning of the Convention. The petition is therefore denied, and this action is dismissed.

HAGUE CONVENTION – INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION LAW WITH MASTERS LAW GROUP

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.

Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph 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.

SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION

If you are faced with instituting or defending child abduction proceedings under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in the United States, work with the experienced lawyers at Masters Law Group. Contact us here today to schedule a consultation.