International Child Custody

People Magazine has recently featured a story about an American mother who is contesting custody of her two children with her French ex-husband:

http://www.people.com/article/kelly-rutherford-custody-battle-new-york-no-jurisdiction

While it seems like the basis for a Lifetime TV “female as victim” drama is does point out an important issue that affects thousands of children around the world.
Back in the 90’s I taught International Business classes at Temple University, Tokyo and I used to tell my students “demography is destiny”, playing on Freud’s quip, “Anatomy is destiny”. A few years later I was able to apply that principle to trans-national custody cases.
Two nations where I lived for almost a decade: Germany and Japan, have a well-known “baby deficit” and are both predicted to have shrinking populations in the future. It is perhaps not a surprise then to find that if one marries a person from either of those nations it can be difficult to see one’s child after a divorce or separation.
Back in 2008 I discovered the nonprofit Findthekids.org. It offers resources for parents in international custody disputes.
At that time I was researching American-Israeli custody disputes. It is indeed ironic that these three nations are all strong US allies and were signatories to the Hague Convention on Child Custody and yet a custody dispute involving an American parent and a child in any of these three nations can be an expensive, arduous and protracted struggle. I believe that all three nations fit the demography-is-destiny paradigm, with Israel having a growing population but being outnumbered more than 20-1 by its Arab and Muslim neighbors.
One particularly interesting case involved a Jewish-American couple from Los Angeles. The wife had an extended Israeli family but the husband did not. They ran a business together and both decided that they could leave their business to the staff for a year so that the mother could explore her Israeli roots and their young son could learn Hebrew. The husband came along for the ride in a spirit of adventure.
After a year the business needed their attention and it was time to return home. The wife was ready to return but the husband, despite having no family in the country, had fallen in love with it and wanted to stay and keep their son in Israel!
The case dragged on for several months and I never heard the outcome but I did learn that there were more US-Israel custody cases than US-Mexico, US-Italy and US-UK combined! Quite a feat for a nation the size of New Jersey with only eight million people!

One lesson for those in a contentious custody dispute: Cheer up things could be far worse-your child could be 10,000 miles away in a nation that dearly holds on to its few remaining children!

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