In the United States, we treat domestic abuse and domestic violence seriously. If either parent proves to have a history of family violence, emotional abuse, or physical abuse, any related child custody case will take those facts into account heavily. However, when it comes to international child custody law, domestic violence and domestic abuse charges are often ignored when deciding child custody, especially when a parent tries to take children from the country in which the children were raised.

According to a new study conducted at the University of Washington in Seattle and published by the United States Institute of Justice, a researcher found that just over half of the child custody cases she examined that included accusations of domestic violence ended with the abuser gaining custody of the children. In some cases, the abuser was awarded custody even though there were proven charges of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and threats with weapons. In some cases, the women fleeing the abuse with their children were charged with kidnapping.

All of the women shared a common story: they married men in the Middle East, Latin America, or Europe – but as they had children and raised a family, they found themselves in a dangerous and caustic environment filled with emotional and physical trauma. Living in countries where they either weren’t fluent in the language or where domestic abuse support was unavailable altogether, the women often divorced and then attempted to bring their children back to the United State – both to escape their abusive pasts and to be reunited with supportive extended family members. However, an international agreement about child custody often required the children to return to their home countries – and to live with the men who abused their mothers.

All of these decisions were based on a treaty developed in the 1980s called the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. While the agreement outlined in the Hague Convention can be very helpful in solving complicated international child custody issues, the document does not factor in domestic abuse in any way.

If you live in Washington State and are facing a child custody case that involves domestic violence or domestic abuse, contact a Seattle child custody attorney today.
Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington