Look Before You Let Your Child Leap - What You Need To Consider Prior To Allowing Your Child/ren To Relocate Overseas, As Seen in The Town Topics, Princeton, New Jersey (April 2008), Jan L. Bernstein
In this ever increasing technological age, it is easier than ever to visit and communicate with people anywhere around the world. Technology is making the world around us appear smaller and is in turn making the ability to accept jobs overseas more commonplace. As a result of these employment opportunities overseas, parents who are separated and/or divorced generally have a big decision to make, do I allow my child/ren to relocate to another country? However, time and time again, individuals allow their child/ren to temporarily relocate to another country, without truly thinking about the legal ramifications of their decision. Unfortunately, many parents learn the hard way, after they allow their child/ren to leave the United States that they may have given up jurisdiction of any custody or support issues that may arise and they may find themselves on a plane to contest custody overseas.
Prior to allowing a child to relocate to another country, even if you have agreed with your former spouse that same will only be temporary in nature, it is imperative that you consult with an attorney to have this understanding memorialized in writing. However, having your agreement drafted by an attorney is not nearly enough. Prior to your child relocating, your attorney must contact counsel in the new country to ascertain whether this agreement would be enforceable in the new country. If the agreement is not enforceable, it is crucial that the overseas attorney explain what words or phrases need to be placed into the agreement to ensure its enforceability. If the overseas attorney states that the agreement would not be enforceable under any circumstance, you must consider this prior to allowing your child to leave, with the understanding that your US order may not be enforceable once your child leaves. If the order would be enforceable in the new country, it would be advisable to have the consent order registered in the country where your child will be temporarily residing before they even leave the US.
If it is your intent to have your child returned to the state in which you presently reside, it is important to spell out your intent clearly in the Consent Order. If during the period of time that your child is overseas, you also leave the state in which the agreement was made, you must understand that it will be difficult for that state to retain jurisdiction over your matter and you run the risk of losing jurisdiction to the overseas country. It will help your case slightly if you retain property, a driver’s license, family, friends and the like in the state in which the order was filed. However, this is not a guarantee that the US will retain jurisdiction.
Generally, after your child has been absent from the jurisdiction of the USA for over 6 months, the US loses jurisdiction over the matter. If you plan on allowing your child to live in another country with your former spouse for over six months, you must consider this time limitation.
In any event it is important to be aware that the result of an international relocation may be different and fact-sensitive. A family law attorney will be able to guide you through your specific case to determine which action is appropriate for your particular situation. For more information on international relocation, contact a Phillips Nizer Family Law attorney.