Last month in Washington, DC, during the International Judicial Conference on Cross-Boarder Family Relocation, a collection of 50 judges from across the world came together to discuss a growing problem: deciding on fair, workable child custody agreements when parents and families are now so often moving across borders and across oceans. The judges outlined a list of recommendations that would help standardize international family relocation decisions across the world, a list of 13 points called the “Washington Declaration on International Family Relocation.” We have summarized the 13 points of the declaration for you below:

1.    Governments should make certain that legal procedures are available in regards to the international relocation of a child and residents should be strongly encouraged to use these procedures.

2.    Those applying to relocate internationally with their child should give a reasonable amount of notice before the relocation proceedings and relocation itself.

3.    The best interest of the child or children should be the single most important factor in deciding whether or not the child should relocate.

4.    Other considerations that may affect a judge’s decision regarding relocation could include the child’s age, the rights of the parents, schooling, employment, any history of family abuse, the reasons for relocation, pre-existing custody arrangements, the relationship between the parents, and issues of mobility.

5.    The above factors should be considered in the scope of international family law.

6.    The above factors reflect research that has been conducted on child development and relocation.

7.    All states should recognize and join the conclusions put forth at the Hague Conventions of 1980 and 1996, in which the framework for international family relocations were built and agreed upon.

8.    Judges should strive to achieve a voluntary settlement of relocation disputes between parents and mediation should be encouraged.

9.    Relocation orders should be enforced in the state of destination. Ideally, the orders by the state of destination and the orders of the state of origin should reflect each other.

10.    The state of destination should not terminate contact or reduce contact of the other parents unless there have been substantial changes in why this change reflects the changing best interests of the child.

11.    Communication between judges in the states of origin and destination is encouraged.

12.    More research should be conducted regarding the affects of international family relocation.

13.    The Hague Conference on Private International Law is encouraged to continue to develop the ideas in the declaration and promote international awareness of this issue.
Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington