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International child custody disputes and child's best interest

Child custody battles are difficult enough for separated parents living in the same state, such as Massachusetts, but what happens if the parents are from two different countries? Child custody disputes between parents from different countries can be very complicated. The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, a treaty that covers cross border child custody disputes, gives jurisdiction to the country where the child lived before the separation to decide where the child should live.

Even though it is reasonable to use the treaty to settle the child custody disputes, it is also important to consider that each family's situation is different. There have been cases where a foreign parent takes a child back to his or her home country and is treated like an abductor. However, the circumstance for taking the child to the home country may have been to protect the child from harm.

In determining where the child should live, parents should first try to settle an agreement with one another. If a settlement cannot be reached, then applying the treaty's principle can be the next step. It is important for the court to consider the child's well-being, safety and wishes first before making a decision about where the child lives.

Marriage between international couples has increased in the past few years. When international couples with kids decide to separate, it is the children who suffer the most. The children must choose which parent to live with or the courts will choose for them. Being internationally separated from one parent is difficult because sometimes it is better for the child to have both parents nearby. Massachusetts courts can help international couples with child custody disputes and find the best solution for the child.

Source: The Asahi Shimbun, "EDITORIAL: Child's well-being top priority in international custody disputes", , April 22, 2014

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