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What to do if Your Ex Won’t Return Child After Half Term

Half Term, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas… the last quarter of the year is packed full of family fun. However, if you are separated or divorced, sharing a child during the holidays is not easy, especially if your ex refuses to obey your parenting or custody agreement.

Half term school break is right around the corner, and for many parents, this is an exciting time to spend some quality time with your child. However, ask many divorced parents about child visitation rights, and you’re likely to hear some discontent about the situation. Especially when a parent ignores an established holiday exchange schedule.

When a parent violates a court-ordered or agreed-upon parenting plan, they run the risk of being held in contempt of court. A parent refusing to bring a child back to the custodial parent after a visit is also known as Parental Child Abduction which requires fast, legal action.

Parenting Plans 101

A parenting plan is a document that says who will make decisions for a child and how those decisions will be made. This often happens in a parental responsibilities case. These plans outline how you and the other parent will continue to care and provide for your children after you separate.

It’s a good idea for a parenting plan to have a system in place for how disputes should be handled if the situation arises, and a way in which parents can periodically review and make necessary changes to the plan. The plan may also include other provisions or information intended to help both parents understand and abide by the shared responsibilities in raising the child or children.

What to include in your plan:

  • Where the child lives
  • Time the child spends with each parent
  • How each parent gets information and records about the child
  • How the child is to be transported for parenting time
  • An airtight Holiday schedule

The final parenting plan will always be aligned with what’s in the best interests of the child.

Important Factors of a Parenting Plan in Illinois

  • Each parent must file a parenting plan within 120 days of asking the court for parental responsibilities;
  • If the parents agree on parental responsibilities, including parenting time, they can file one parenting plan (signed by both parents) within the 120 days. If the parents don’t agree, they must each file their own parenting plans;
  • If neither parent files a parenting plan, the court will hold a hearing to determine the child’s best interests; and
  • The court will look at the parenting plans when it decides who gets parental responsibilities.

Once both plans have been created and shared with the court to examine each parent’s responsibilities, the court can accept the plan and it becomes a Joint Parenting Order. After the Joint Parenting Order is in place, changes cannot be made to it for two years.

Parenting Plans for Holidays, Vacations & School Breaks in Illinois

Splitting up holidays, vacation time, and school breaks can be challenging, but there are ways to make it work for everyone involved.

For many parents, it makes sense to take an odd/even approach to the holiday season. For example, one parent could have the child/children for Thanksgiving on odd years, but Christmas for even years. The other parent would have the children for Thanksgiving on odd years and Christmas on even years. An an alternative choice by parents during the holidays is a fixed holiday schedule. This takes a more simple approach of assigning a certain holiday, every year, to a certain parent. While this could cause some form of conflict for those to want to alternate the holidays, it works well for separated couples with different religions.

At any point, one parent may need to modify a parenting plan. A parenting plan can only be modified by the court. Take caution with any out-of-court arrangements because they are not enforceable.

Parenting Plan Violations

Either your ex isn’t complying with the schedule or maybe there are more serious issues where you’re worried about your child’s safety; If you are concerned about the upcoming holidays and whether your ex will stick to the plan, you can and should probably take legal action.

According to 750 ILCS 5/607.5, if one parent violates the parenting plan, the other parent can bring an action to enforce the parenting plan. If the court finds that a violation has occurred, it can order:

  • additional terms and conditions
  • require participation in a parental education program
  • require family or individual counseling
  • require parent-in-violation to post a Chas bond that can be forfeited for payment of expenses
  • require parenting time to be made up
  • find the non-compliant parent in contempt of court
  • impose civil fines
  • require a non-compliant parent to reimburse reasonable expenses to the compliant parent
  • require any other measure so long as it is in the best interests of the child.

What to do if Your Ex Won’t Return Your Child

If your ex isn’t sticking to the parenting plan, have your attorney send a letter to your ex. This is often the first step towards getting your ex to follow child custody orders. Your attorney can write up a forceful letter that informs the other parent that they must obey the court order or be prepared to face serious legal penalties. Sometimes this is all that it takes to wake up a parent and get them to follow the child custody order.

Illinois’ new parenting time law (750 ILCS 5/607.5(a)) requires the court to handle parenting time abuse cases on an “expedited basis.”  In the old days it could take six months to get parenting time violations addressed.  Now, thanks to the new law, I often can get a remedy in a few days or weeks.

However, keeping a child late on a visitation in Illinois is technically a crime. If you suspect that the other parent has taken your child and doesn’t intend to return (known as a parental child abduction), contact the police. If the other parent takes your child across state lines or out of the country, local police will work alongside federal law enforcement, such as the FBI, to ensure the return of your child.

Experienced Parental Child Abduction Attorneys – Masters Law Group

Above all, your actions should be taken in the best interests of your child.

An experienced attorney can help you navigate the court system in this emotional situation, and make sure that you get in front of a judge as soon as possible. At Masters Law Group, we focus exclusively on Family Law, with a particular emphasis on International Child Abduction and cross-border custody issues pursuant to the Hague Convention of 1980 and the UCCJEA. What’s more, our attorneys are also court-appointed Child Representatives and have experience advocating for children in these high-conflict matters.

If you’re dealing with custody or visitation interference, or have related concerns about parental child abduction, contact us here today. We understand that above all, any actions taken should always be in the best interests of your child.

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.

Parental Child Abduction? Hire a Hague Convention Attorney.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is the main international agreement that covers international parental child abduction. It provides a process through which a parent can seek to have their child returned to their home country.

A number of countries around the globe have joined a treaty called the Hague Convention. 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.

According to the Convention, the removal or retention of a child is “wrongful” whenever it breaches custody rights attributed to a person or any other body. If, at the time of removal or retention, those rights were exercised. Even if a parent already has legal custody of a child, the Convention is needed. 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.

LIST OF U.S HAGUE CONVENTION TREATY PARTNERS

Listed below are the countries that are participants of the Hague Convention in force with the United States of America. The official list and dates the treaties signed can be found here.

 

Andorra Lithuania
Argentina Luxembourg
Armenia Macedonia, Republic of
Australia Malta
Austria Mauritius
Bahamas, The Mexico
Belgium Monaco
Belize Montenegro
Bosnia and Herzegovina Morocco
Brazil Netherlands
Bulgaria New Zealand
Burkina Faso Norway
Canada Pakistan
Chile Panama
China (Hong Kong and Macau only) Paraguay
Colombia Peru
Costa Rica Poland
Croatia Portugal
Cyprus Korea, Republic of
Czech Republic Romania
Denmark Saint Kitts and Nevis
Dominican Republic San Marino
Ecuador Serbia
El Salvador Singapore
Estonia Slovakia
Fiji Slovenia
Finland South Africa
France Spain
Germany Sri Lanka
Greece Sweden
Guatemala Switzerland
Honduras Thailand
Hungary Trinidad and Tobago
Iceland Turkey
Ireland Ukraine
Israel United Kingdom (Anguilla, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Isle of Man, Montserrat)
Italy Uruguay
Jamaica Venezuela
Japan Zimbabwe
Latvia

 

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.

 

Hague Convention: 6 Defenses to a Petition for the Return of a Child.

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

When a parent is subject to an application either in the State Court or the Federal Court for return of a child who is alleged to be illegally taken from a foreign country and brought to the United States, or wrongfully retained in the United States beyond the agreed upon time frame of temporary absence, there are certain defenses that can be raised by the non-petitioning parent in order to prevent the return.

History of Hague

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.

Under the Hague Abduction Convention and ICARA, when a child has been wrongfully removed from the child’s home nation-state or “habitual residence,” the court must order the child to be returned to the habitual residence, unless the party removing the child can establish at least one of six narrow affirmative defenses.

Six Defenses

There are a few defenses to a claim of wrongful removal or retention under the Hague Convention, which include:

Defense 1: That the petitioner (parent seeking the return of the child) was not “actually exercising custody rights at the time of the removal or retention” under Article 13.

Defense 2: That the petitioner “had consented to or acquiesced in the removal or retention” under Article 13.

Defense 3: That more than one year passed from the time of the wrongful removal or retention until the date the petitioner commenced a judicial or administrative proceeding for the return of the child, under Article 12.

Defense 4: That the child is old enough and has a sufficient degree of maturity to knowingly object to being returned to the petitioner and that it is appropriate to heed that objection, under Article 13.

Defense 5: 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,” under Article 13(b), and

Defense 6: That return of the child would subject the child to violation of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, under Article 20.

If your child has been wrongfully removed to a country overseas, you should immediately contact your local family law attorney that is experienced in international custody disputes for help.

Relocating Your Child

Whether due to job requirements (like working in the military) or simply moving back to be with family, many separated or divorced US parents relocate abroad every year. You must realize it will often be a criminal offense for you to take the child away without the other parent’s permission. Illinois Courts require that a parent looking to permanently relocate a child from the State of Illinois have a written agreement and/or Court Order allowing the move.  There are a variety of factors the Court will consider in adjudicating whether the move is within your child’s best interest.

As previously mentioned, under the Hague Convention you will “wrongfully remove” a child if you take the child away from his or her habitual residence. Therefore, the other parent will normally be able to block your removal of the child from that country and if you take the child to the United States a U.S. court will normally compel you to return the child forthwith.

It is imperative you make any International Custody Agreements & Parenting Time schedules before you relocate your child/children.

In deciding whether to authorize a child’s relocation to a foreign country, U.S. courts will try to determine the best interests of the child, considering the same factors they normally consider in domestic move-away cases (these factors depend on the laws of state that has jurisdiction to hear the case). In addition, with international move-away cases, most state courts will also consider several additional factors, including (as per DivorceNet):

  • The cultural conditions and practices in the foreign country
  • Any potential visitation difficulties for the parent that gets left behind
  • Jurisdictional issues that may make the enforceability of the domestic custody and visitation orders problematic (meaning the extent to which the foreign country would enforce the left-behind parent’s visitation or rights to access the child), and
  • Whether or not the proposed foreign country is a signatory to the Hague convention (however, the fact that the proposed country is not a signatory does not automatically mean the request to relocate will be denied).

If you want to move your child out of the United States or your child’s other parent does, you should definitely contact an experienced custody attorney for advice on how to protect your parental rights.

Getting the Help You Need

Left behind parents face enormous obstacles in seeking judicial intervention in the United States to compel return of their children. 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.

The attorneys at Masters Law Group 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.

Contact us here today to schedule a consultation.

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. 

Illinois Super Lawyers Recognize Masters Law Group Attorneys

Masters Law Group is proud to announce the firm’s Attorneys named by Super Lawyers in  both ‘Rising Stars’ and ‘Super Lawyer’ categories. 

Masters Law Group attorneys Erin Masters was named Super Lawyer list by Illinois Super Lawyers Magazine in 2020 and now 2021. Additionally, the firm’s Illinois-based attorney, Anthony Joseph was also granted the 2020 Illinois Rising Stars list as well.

The Super Lawyers designation, conferred upon the most respected legal practitioners in the state, is based upon peer recognition and professional achievement. No more than five percent of the lawyers in each state are selected by the research team to receive this honor. Rising Stars are those up-and-coming attorneys who are 40 years of age or younger and have practiced law for 10 years or less. No more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team to receive this honor.

About Erin Masters

Erin E. Masters is the principal of Masters Law Group, located in Chicago, Illinois. The 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 Hague Convention/ international child abduction matters.

Ms. Masters earned her Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego, where she attended on a merit based scholarship, was a member of the Athlete Honor Roll, a participant of the NCAA Division II Track and Field Team and graduated in three (3) years with Provost’s Honors.

Ms. Masters received her Juris Doctorate and Certificate in Child and Family Law from Loyola University of Chicago, School of Law, in May of 2004. She was admitted to the Illinois Bar in November 2004 and to the General Bar for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 2005 and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in 2020. Ms. Masters was admitted to the United States Supreme Court in March 2009.

In addition to representing clients, Ms. Masters is also a court-appointed Child Representative and has experience advocating for children in these high-conflict matters. Further, she has also been appointed by the Circuit Court of Cook County to mediate complex family law cases. Since 2016, Ms. Masters has been named “Rising Star” by Illinois Super Lawyers and has been named as an “Emerging Lawyer” by Leading Lawyers.

About Anthony Joseph

Anthony G. Joseph is an attorney at the firm of Masters Law Group, LLC. Mr. Joseph received his B.A. degree in Global Economic Relations from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA.

He obtained both his J.D. degree and Certificate in Trial Advocacy from The John Marshall Law School. He was admitted to the Illinois Bar in November 2010, the Federal General Bar and Trial Bar for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 2012 and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in 2020.

Mr. Joseph is an active trial lawyer. Mr. Joseph publishes in the area of civil litigation. Mr. Joseph has also served as an adjunct professor at DePaul University. Mr. Joseph is “AV” Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review, which is the highest peer review rating available and has been named a “Rising Star” by Illinois Super Lawyers in both 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Mr. Joseph concentrates his practice in area of domestic relations, which includes divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities and child support. Mr. Joseph has also successfully litigated matters concerning modification and enforcement of child support, allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time as well as prosecuted and defended Orders of Protection. Ms. Joseph has also successfully litigated matters concerning modification and enforcement of child support,. Mr. Joseph has also litigated cases in both state court and multiple United States Federal Courts involving The Hague Convention and international child abduction issues.

About Super Lawyers

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The patented selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

According to Super Lawyers, the “Rising Stars” and “Super Lawyers” selection process is a comprehensive, good-faith, and detailed attempt to produce a list of lawyers who have attained high peer recognition, meet ethical standards, and have demonstrated some degree of achievement in their field.

Selection Process

Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a patented multiphase selection process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with independent research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. The objective is to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel.

For more information about Super Lawyers, visit SuperLawyers.com.

Contact Masters Law Group

Masters Law Group LLC has a unique depth of knowledge, experience and talent in the Family Law and Divorce field. Schedule a consultation here to speak with an attorney regarding your family law matter 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.