I recently came home from work to find that my stepfather had come over from France. His intention is to bring my wife and our children back with him for good. I took the children’s passports and took them to a friend who is a lawyer and put them in his safe.
Is possession of their passport sufficient to keep them in the United States? What is the probability that she will be authorized to move the children to France? If she takes the children out of the country, do I have any recourse to bring them back?
There’s no history of abuse or anything like that, the marriage just didn’t work out. I can’t afford to fly the children and I don’t even know what my rights would be in France. How do US courts generally handle these overseas custody issues?
Safeguarding passports was a good first step. Your wife would need the passports to get them out of the United States. For now, if you haven’t already, don’t tell him where the passports are. She can apply for new ones, but in the US this requires the signatures of both parents, unless she has a court order granting her sole legal custody. I don’t know the ages of your children, but I’m guessing they’re not over 16 yet. After 16 it becomes more complicated because they can consent to the issuance of a passport and the Hague Abduction Convention does not apply to them. I also don’t know if your children are French citizens and if so, if they also have French passports, which is another complication.
You should hire a divorce attorney who has experience in international custody. File the divorce complaint and sign your wife as soon as possible. You should also ask your attorney to make an emergency motion to add your children to the Do Not Go list and prohibit your wife from applying for US or French passports for the children. When the order is issued, make sure it is emailed to the Department of State (see website for details). By sending the order by e-mail, their names will be put on a list and they will not be allowed to board an international flight.
Your wife can ask the court to authorize the children to settle permanently in France. It is a long and complex process and you would have the opportunity to oppose it. Typically, dismissal cases require a trial. Depending on who is primarily caring for your children, your wife will need to prove that she has a real benefit in the move that will benefit your children or that such a move is in their best interests and outweighs the having you in their family. lives regularly — a heavy burden.
If she takes them out of the country before you receive an order, contact the State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues to initiate a return request – France and the United States are treaty partners.
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