Virginia International Family Law: I’m Worried that My Divorcing Spouse Will Take My Child Out of the Country

By | Published On: February 1, 2017

We live in an interconnected world where, now more than ever, many of our Virginia divorce clients are married to or have a child with a person who holds a passport issued by another country.

If you’re in this situation and your marital or intimate relationship appears to be breaking down, you may be fearful your spouse or significant other could flee the United States with your child. How worried should you be and what can you do about it?

Here are four suggestions if you have such concerns:

1. Hire a divorce attorney with relevant experience

Make sure your divorce attorney is experienced in handling international custody cases in general, and knowledgeable specifically about the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (commonly known as “The Hague Convention.”)  The Hague Convention provides remedies if a child is removed from his or her country of “habitual residence” but it is a very complicated international treaty, both in substance and procedure and obtaining solid legal expertise to advise and assist you is key.

2. Consider the risks in your situation

Try to make an informed decision about the severity of risks in your particular situation. Factors to consider include:

  • Is the other country a signatory to the Hague Convention so that its remedies could be invoked in your case?
  • What ties does your spouse/significant other have to the US and to the other country? Are they employed in the U.S.? How long have they lived in the U.S.?  Do they have family members in the U.S.? Do they own real estate and have other assets in the U.S.?
  • How old is the child? Your situation if you have a 12-year-old is quite different from the situation if you have a 2-year-old or an infant.
  • Who has possession of the child’s passport?

3. Think about common sense steps you can take yourself

If you have access to the child’s passport, put it in a secure place. Apply to put your child on the State Department’s Passport Issuance Alert Program so you’ll be alerted if someone applies for an original or duplicate U.S. passport in your child’s name. Maintain current color photos and a physical description of your child. Take your child to your local police station to be fingerprinted. If there are court orders, provide copies to your child’s school and daycare.

4. Ensure your concerns are addressed in any settlement agreement or court order

Work with your divorce attorney to ensure that any settlement agreement or court order thoroughly addresses your concerns about the risk of international child abduction.

Getting the right help and planning in a proactive way can make a big difference in your worries and fears about the complex issues that arise when divorcing parents have ties to two different countries.

Emily C. Baker is a family law attorney and partner at Tucker PLLC. If you’re concerned that your spouse or partner might flee the United States with your child and need guidance, contact Emily at or schedule a consultation.

Learn more about the Tucker Family Law Team