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International child custody cases require diplomatic cooperation

Houston parents dealing with the heartbreaking turmoil of an international custody battle can certainly empathize with a woman from Kansas. Her former husband has taken her three children to the Gaza Strip in the Middle East. Under their divorce decree, the children lived with their father but had regular visitation with their mother. In addition, the father was allowed to take the children overseas as long as he had their mother’s permission. However, the Palestinian man fooled his ex-wife into signing their passport applications under the guise that he was merely bringing the children to visit for his sister’s wedding. They were supposed to return to the U.S. in March.

When fighting international child custody battles, it’s essential that U.S. authorities and attorneys have the cooperation of international treaties. One such document is the Hague Convention which provides for the return of wrongfully removed or detained children in another country and guarantees that the rights of parents in one country are respected in another. However, Turkey is the only Muslim nation that recognizes the Hague Convention. Therefore, while the mother may appeal to Interpol, Gaza’s Hamas leaders do not have to honor the treaty.

The father insists his ex-wife knew he was taking the children there to live, but she has provided evidence that he booked return flights to the U.S. The children are enrolled in an American school in Gaza City and speak to their mother regularly on the phone. She is extremely concerned for their safety in that country’s current political climate.

While the Kansas woman has filed criminal charges against her ex-husband, she has little hope of seeing her children without the cooperation of international authorities. Complicating matters is Gaza’s Sharia Islamic law which dictates that a mother is not able to leave Gaza with her children unless she achieves their father’s permission.

Source:, “US claims father illegally moved kids to Gaza,” Roxana Hegeman, May 2, 2012