How Do I Deal With An International Child Custody Dispute?

Mens divorce lawyerQuestion:

My wife took our children to Denmark (where we used to live) over a year ago for a vacation that I agreed to.

She had medical complications that forced her to stay this whole time, and now my wife has said she wants to live in Denmark with the children permanently.

I have filed for divorce and the children are with me back in the U.S. for a visit per a court order while we await our trial on where the kids should live.

There is no child custody order in place, just the court order that the kids are allowed to visit me for a month.

What are the rights for fathers if they refuse to send the kids back after their court-ordered visit is supposed to end? I feel like if I send them back to Denmark I will never see them again!


This answer only includes general divorce help for men since I am only licensed to practice in Missouri and am thus unable to provide any legal advice on divorce on the laws in your state.

Based upon the facts that you described, I’m concerned that if you return your children to Denmark that their mother could be a flight risk. If your spouse were to flee the country, you would bear extreme hardship to try to locate them.

With that being said, if there is an existing court order that allows Mom to keep the children overseas, then she is not in contempt and your refusal to return the children may be a violation of that order.

Where I practice, situations such as yours are treated with a high level of priority. If a parent decides to leave the country, generally, the children are returned to the home country and home state while the case is pending and before child custody agreements are entered.

From your question, it sounds like the children may have lived an entire year overseas already. If this is the case, it may be difficult to return them home to you if the children are already enrolled in school, which the court generally hesitates to upset.

Please understand that my opinions are based upon the limited facts that you provided to me. For a more in depth discussion of your legal rights and legal advice on divorce, I urge you to contact a family law attorney immediately as international child custody disputes are highly complex.

To set up an appointment with a Cordell & Cordell attorney, including Michelle Hughes, an Associate Attorney in the Jefferson County, Missouri office, please contact Cordell & Cordell.

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