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Child custody legislation hopes to capitalize on executive power

In Illinois, child custody arrangements are determined in cases involving either unmarried or divorcing parents. These arrangements include high level issues, like who has legal and physical custody of the kids. Also included are more detailed issues such as guidelines on how holidays will be handled or how exchanges will take place.

Although these child custody arrangements can include guidance for nearly any situation, the agreement itself is only a document. Each parent must abide by the terms for them to be effective. What happens when the other parent violates the terms? In the United States, a child custody order is a legally enforceable agreement, the violation of which can lead to contempt of court or other sanctions.

Parental child abduction cases arise when a parent removes a child against the terms of a custody order. As noted above, the custody order has enforceable authority within the boundaries of the United States, but what happens when the child is removed to a foreign country that isn’t bound by the laws of the U.S.?

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was drafted to help facilitate the return of children when they are removed to a foreign country. The Hague convention is a treaty signed by a number of countries, agreeing to help in this type of situation.

The treaty itself doesn’t always solve the problem for families in this situation. Dealing with countries that have a different view on family and a completely separate legal structure isn’t always easy. In other cases, a child is taken to a country that isn’t even a signatory to the treaty.

A new piece of legislation has been introduced in Congress that supporters hope would help force or at least speed up compliance in foreign abduction cases that have been delayed or permanently stalled. The legislation looks towards the power of the executive branch, and would utilize the influential tools that the Office of the President has at hand, such as economic sanctions.

Any custody issue starts at a private level. Parents in Illinois can seek the assistance of a family law attorney to protect their rights whether it is in the determination or enforcement of an agreement.

Source:, “Bill may help ‘left-behind parents’ in global child custody fights,” Herb Jackson, Dec. 11, 2013

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