New Jersey court affirms in international child custody dispute

Sometimes, parents who are citizens of other countries take their children abroad and refuse to return them to the other parent. This is considered parental abduction. This problem is the source of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, of which the United States is a signatory.

Under the Hague Convention, children taken from their home countries must be returned to that country for the resolution of child custody disputes, and those disputes must be resolved under the laws of the child's home country. However, it is important to note that if the parent who was left behind makes a parental abduction claim more than one year after the child's removal, courts can take into account the best interest of the child, including whether the child is well-settled in the new country. In such cases, family courts may decide that the child should remain in the new country while the issue is decided by the home country's courts.

These were the issues faced recently by the New Jersey Appellate Division in a case involving a 9-year-old girl living in Clifton with her father. Her parents are both from Turkey, although the girl is a U.S. citizen, having been born in Passaic County while her parents were on vacation.

Five years later, the father brought his daughter back to New Jersey, where the two have been comfortably settled. More than a year after the father and daughter's move to the United States, the girl's mother asserted that this was a case of parental abduction.

According to the mother, she granted permission in 2008 for their daughter to accompany her father on a trip to Italy -- not to move to the U.S. The girl's father disputes this, but in fact he is in violation of the child custody laws of Turkey and has kept the girl from her mother for four years.

Last year, a Passaic County family court found that the Hague Convention did apply to the case, meaning that the child custody dispute should be resolved in the Turkish courts. Despite finding that the child was well-settled in New Jersey, the judge ruled that it was in the girl's best interest to be reunited with her mother in Turkey. The father appealed, and last week the appellate court recently agreed.

The mother's U.S. lawyers, which were provided by the State Department, said they hoped to obtain a court order for the girl's immediate return to Turkey. However, the father has now appealed to the Supreme Court of New Jersey, which has issued an order that the girl should remain in the U.S. while it considers on an expedited basis whether to hear the father's appeal.


  •, "NJ Supreme Court delays return of Clifton girl to Turkey," John Petrick, Aug. 10, 2012
  •, "Child living in Clifton with father must return to mother in Turkey, court rules," John Petrick, Aug. 7, 2012