My Ex Relocated And Took My Child Out Of The Country — What Can I Do?

Blog, Child Custody

International Child CustodyWhen you share child custody with your ex, learning that your ex has relocated with your child can be devastating. For many parents, news of the relocation is a shock, and it may be difficult to know precisely how to deal with an international child custody case concerning child relocation. While many parents share child custody and work to co-parent, other parents remain in contentious relationships after a divorce is finalized, and one of the parents might make a unilateral decision to move to another region of the world with the child. You are most likely wondering if you can do anything about it if your ex took your child out of the country. In most cases, a parent can take action, but international child custody laws are extremely complex, and you should work with one of our Texas child custody attorneys to determine your options.

Your options will depend on a number of different factors, and we want to provide you with some general information below.

Location Where Your Child Custody Case Was Decided Will Matter

When a parent moves out of the country with a minor child, this act is often described as international relocation. In most child custody cases involving an international relocation, the parent seeking a remedy may need to file a petition in the court that originally decided the child custody case. However, other courts in Texas or elsewhere in the U.S. also may have jurisdiction, and your Dallas international child custody lawyer can help you to determine where and how to file a petition if you are eligible to do so.

Language of Your Joint Conservatorship and Parenting Plan Will Matter

Was your ex permitted to determine the geographic residence of the child? While Texas courts encourage parents to share in the responsibilities of parenting and want to assure that children maintain “frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interests of the child,” according to the Texas Family Code, courts do appoint sole managing conservators and, in some cases, sole possessory conservators. In other words, there are situations in which a parent will have sole custody of the child. If this is the situation (and you do not have custody), you may not have options for bringing your child back to Texas.

Even when parenting is appointed as joint possessory conservators, and in some cases as joint managing conservators, the court still might say that one parent alone “may designate the child’s primary residence without regard to geographic location.” Other parenting plans, as the Texas Family Code explains, might establish “the geographic area within which the conservator shall maintain the child’s primary residence.” The language of your parenting plan will matter. If the other parent has the ability to designate the child’s primary residence, bringing your child back to Texas immediately may be more difficult because your ex might not have violated the existing child custody arrangement. However, if the custody arrangement establishes the child’s geographic residence, you will need to turn to international law.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction May Apply

If your ex was not permitted to leave the country with your child, you can ask a Texas court to apply the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction to help return your child to Texas. This law applies if your child is a U.S. citizen and is currently outside the U.S. with the other parent. In addition to allowing you to seek the return of your child, this law will also establish whether U.S. law will apply to the case. In general, the law of the child’s place of “habitual residence,” which was likely Texas prior to the international relocation, will apply.

Other international laws also may apply to your case. Our child custody lawyers can provide you with detailed information.

Seek Advice from a Texas International Child Custody Lawyer

International relocations can be incredibly complex and contentious. You should never try to handle one of these difficult cases on your own when one of our Dallas international child custody lawyers can help. Contact Orsinger, Nelson, Downing, and Anderson, LLP to get started on your case. We have offices in Dallas, Frisco, Fort Worth, and San Antonio.