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Texas child custody dispute returns to U.S. soil

Texas family courts encourage the continuation of strong parent-child ties when parents separate or divorce. Some parents, harboring hard feelings toward an ex, find child custody or visitation arrangements difficult to support. Most parents resolve issues over parenting arrangements with or without the court's help -- some parents take the child and flee.

The mother of a 10-year-old boy was arrested recently when she stepped off a plane in Dallas-Fort Worth. The woman, a green card holder from India, was married to the child's Texas father in 2003. The marriage was brief, but a custody battle ensued that ended with a court order in 2006, awarding the father primary physical custody.

A year later, the mother took the child, then about 3, and fled to India. During the next seven years, the woman and boy traveled throughout Europe and Asia. The U.S. father employed a private investigator and engaged federal officials to try to reunite with his son.

The task of getting a child back is frustrated by countries' conflicting family laws. India is not a participant in the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The treaty supports returning an abducted child to his or her country of "habitual residence" – the country from which the child was taken.

The boy, who accompanied his mother, saw his father for the first time in seven years. The mother, denied access to her son and facing felony child custody interference charges, has chosen to stay in Texas until the criminal and custody issues are resolved.

Parents violate the Texas Penal Code when they retain or take a child against temporary or permanent child custody orders. This applies when a parent removes a minor child to a location outside the court's jurisdiction area, including across state lines and out of the country. Federal officials reported more than 700 international abductions cases last year.

Source: The Dallas Morning News, "Mother's arrest at D/FW Airport shows difficulties of international custody disputes" Julieta Chiquillo, Sep. 15, 2014

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