Saturday, July 6, 2013

Comment on Brazil Custody Dispute

Current in the news is an international custody dispute involving a 6-year-old American child, and American mother & a Brazilian father (

It is important to note that both sides of the story are not yet clear, and media reports I've read seem at least slightly skewed toward the American mother.  It is just as possible, for instance, that the father's allegations of the mother taking the child away from him & preventing him from seeing her are absolutely accurate.  My experience says the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

All that said, this case points to the continuing difficulty in the area of international child custody law.  Some countries are signatories, while others have merely "ratified" or "acceded" to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction (, which is the international treaty in place theoretically governing child custody disputes.

A decent summary article on the subject is found here:

Brazil has "acceded" to the Convention, which means it, in effect, "agrees in principle" to the Convention and agrees to generally apply it.

What is lacking is clarity along the lines of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act ("UCCJEA").

Overall, before one travels with a minor child internationally (or, for that matter, domestically), the custodial parent is well advised to have a clear court order of sole or primary custody when the parents are not living together. 

In the international case, it is also well-advised the you have the order state specifically how the other parent was served with the summons or notice of the custody case.  This is important so it's crystal clear to the foreign country how jurisdiction was established in the United States over the foreign resident parent.

Parents in such situations should consider at the least scheduling a consultation with a child custody attorney in their area, particularly one knowledgeable about international child custody laws.

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