When family law disputes cross international borders, things can become increasingly complicated. In March, we wrote about the sad case of a Maryland father whose child custody case was decided by the Japanese court system, to his disfavor. U.S. family law courts simply cannot extend their jurisdiction into other countries in most cases, which can yield unfortunate results when international borders separate parents and children.
The issue comes into play in child support cases as well, as it is extremely difficult for states to collect child support from parents who do not live within the U.S. However, this week the House passed legislation that would give states more power in international child support cases. The measure puts an international child support treaty on a course to being ratified in the U.S.
The U.S. has already signed the 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance, as has the European Union, Ukraine, Albania, Norway, Bosnia and Herzegovina. But no countries other than Norway have actually ratified the treaty.
The House legislation provides necessary language for implementing the treaty and a process for sharing information between countries, which are needed before it can be ratified.
The U.S. does already have child support agreements with about 15 countries, but although the U.S. readily enforces foreign child support obligations here, many other countries are not enforcing U.S. obligations abroad.
One state director of child support told the Washington Post that many families wait up to five years for U.S. child support obligations to be recognized abroad, even in the countries that share agreements with the U.S.
As we know here in Maryland, it is very important that child support obligations are enforced in order to ensure that children's basic needs--including health care and education--will be provided for. In some cases where a child support order is simply not feasible for a parent, it is important that he or she goes through the necessary legal channels to achieve a modified order.
Source: Associated Press, "House acts on international child support treaty," June 5, 2012