International Parental Child Abduction

A U.S. citizen or green card holder who is married to a Filipino residing in the Philippines should think one hundred and one times before filing a divorce if the U.S. citizen or green card holder would like to have custody of his or her children. Also, if the child is residing in the U.S. with the U.S. citizen or green card holder parent, that parent should think one hundred and one times before allowing the child to take a vacation in the Philippines. The Filipino parent residing in the Philippines may choose not to let the child go back to the U.S. and the U.S. citizen or green card holder parent will have no remedy to get that child back into the United States. I have a friend who waited for her daughter to come to the U.S. before she filed for divorce because she knew the father won’t let the girl come to the U.S. if he knew the marriage was breaking up. If the father doesn’t consent to the girl traveling to the U.S., the U.S citizen mother won’t have any legal remedy. While the Philippine court can grant visitation rights to the U.S. resident mother, this is practically useess considering the distance.

The Philippines is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of international abduction. There are also no international or bilateral treaties in force between the United States and Philippines on international abduction. Therefore, the U.S. citizen has no remedy to pursue recovery of a child who was abducted or wrongfully detained in the Philippines by the other parent. The child is subject to the law of the Philippines for all matters including custody. A custody decree issued by a U.S. court has no binding effect abroad because the United States is not a party to any treaty or convention on the enforcement of court orders. The Philippine court may voluntarily recognize the custody decree, but it’s not required to follow or enforce the decree.
Under Philippine law, parental child abduction is not a crime. Philippine law considers custody disputes as civil legal matters and should be resolved by the parents or parties concerned in family court. The U.S. resident parent has the option to file a petition for habeas corpus seeking release of the child from the other parent or to ask the Philippine court to recognize and enforce the U.S. custody order. In both cases, the U.S. resident parent would need a local attorney or Filipino attorney in the Philippines.

Under the laws of the United States, international parent child abduction may be a crime. Removing a child from the U.S. against another parent’s wishes can be considered a crime and this is true even when neither parent has a custody decree prior to the abduction. A custody decree would be helpful to the Filipino parent but not to the U.S. resident parent. If a U.S. court grants the Filipino parent 50 percent custody and for this reason was able to take the child back to the Philippines for a vacation. If the Filipino parent chooses not to follow the U.S. custody decree decides to hold the child in the Philippines, can the U.S court cite the Filipino parent for contempt? Probably not. As we all now, the wheels of justice grind slow in the Philippines. In the meantime, the child and the left-behind parent suffer emotional and psychological problems.

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