International Child Abduction

The Law Offices of Edward J.S.F. Smith is one of the few divorce and family law firms in the state of Hawaii with experience in international child abduction cases. If your spouse has taken your child across international borders without your permission, you need a qualified attorney to enforce your parental and custodial rights and protect your child's welfare.
Thousands of international child abductions occur every year in the context of a divorce or post-divorce custody battle. Also known as parental kidnapping, child snatching, or child stealing, a child abduction is often committed by a noncustodial parent who received an unfavorable custody arrangement or even by a parent in the midst of divorce proceedings who anticipates being shut out of custody or visitation for various reasons. Regardless of the perpetrator's motives, abduction is detrimental to the child, and in violation of family law court orders.

The Hague Convention and International Law



Generally speaking, there are two types of international custodial disputes, depending upon whether the foreign country is a signatory to the Hague Convention on international child abduction. The goal of the Hague Convention is to provide for the prompt return of children who have been abducted from their home country, such as in violation of a custody order or without the consent of the other parent.
A Hague Convention case is usually handled by the attorney working simultaneously at the state family court level and with the Federal government through the U.S. State Department. There are special procedures for such cases that treaty nations must follow. International child abduction cases involving non-signatory nations involve the same institutions, but the procedures can become extremely more complicated.

There are defenses available to an action under the Hague Convention. For instance, the abductor may be able to justify his or her actions or establish that a grave risk of harm to the child exists upon return. Also, a custodial parent must have been "actually exercising" custody rights at the time of the abduction in order to press a Hague Convention claim. Time is another important factor. If the proceeding is commenced more than one year after the abduction, and the child has become settled in a new environment, a return under the Hague Convention may be denied.

Quality and Experience for Complex Cases

With dealings in state court, the State Department, and a foreign country all existing simultaneously, international child abduction cases require the experience of an attorney who is knowledgeable in Hague Convention cases as well as situations involving non-signatory nations. In addition to resolving the international custodial dispute, criminal sanctions may apply, and it may be possible to initiate a civil lawsuit against the abducting parent. However, these actions could cause further emotional trauma to the child and should only be instituted after careful consideration, including counsel from your attorney.

Firm principal Edward Smith has dedicated his professional career to helping individuals and families in custody matters and other legal issues. If you have become involved in an international child abduction scenario or feel it is a possibility in your divorce or custody dispute, contact the Law Offices of Edward J.S.F. Smith for legal representation.

Experience and Commitment



Mr. Smith's experience encompasses divorces involving military spouses, domestic abuse, and interstate child abduction and parental kidnapping issues, including child return matters under the International Hague Convention. In fact, his is the only law firm in the area actively handling international child abduction cases.

At the Law Offices of Edward J.S.F. Smith, we are committed to providing high-quality, legal representation at cost-effective rates. For the convenience of our clients, we offer flexible payment plans and office hours.

Contact us today for an initial telephone consultation to find out how we can help you find a solution to your legal needs.

Why Choose Us?

  • Local Representation
  • Evening Appointments Available
  • Personal Attention On Every Case
  • 20 Years of Experience
  • Free Initial Phone Consultation

Associations & Memberships:

  • Hawaii State Bar Association
  • Florida Bar Association
  • The District of Columbia Bar