Child custody can be more complicated for parents who live in different countries. For instance, if one parent lives in the United States, and the other in a different country, then it would become difficult for the court to handle such a case. 

The issue of living in different countries will present problems that will be difficult to solve such as visitation and enforcing child custody orders. 

Relocating to a different country 

When one parent plans to relocate to a different country after separation or divorce, then there are several considerations that the court would take into account. The most important thing is the child’s best interests. Some of the other factors include:

Stability in the other country 

The court will consider whether there is peace and stability in the other country. This is to ensure that the child continues to live in a stable and safe environment that is free of wars. If the country is not stable, then there are high chances that the child will continue residing in the United States. 

The laws in place 

If you are moving with a child to a different country, it is important to note that there are laws that govern such movements. The court will consider these laws and whether they might affect the child or not. The laws of different countries vary and hence, in the United States, the judge will be concerned on the issues to do with international relations that exist, to determine whether it would be easier to move with the child or not. 

The laws also affect international relocation and it would be difficult for the judge to determine or come up with a plan that would suit both parties living in different countries. 

Child Custody Determination in the United States 

As we have mentioned, it is a complicated procedure to pursue child custody matters when the parents live in different countries. This is especially if the countries are not bound together by any treaty and have different laws and regulations regarding child custody. This is where parents are encouraged to embrace out of court settlement and agree on what is in the best interests of the child. 

If the two countries are bound by treaties or are parties to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, then it would be easier to prevent a parent from abducting the child from the United States or any other country that is party to the convention. This is a scenario that normally happens with parents living in different countries. 

Parents residing in different countries 

As we have mentioned, it is difficult for the court to come up with a parenting plan that suits parents living in different countries – considering the best interests of the child. This is because it would be difficult to implement visitation orders for the other parent and this shared or joint custody may not work in this case. 

It is required for parents who are facing custody issues and are living in different countries to negotiate for better ways of parenting and agree on the best possible terms that would serve the best interests of the child. In this regard, as a parent, you may seek for mediation professionals who are experienced to handle matters of child custody to help you and your ex-spouse agree on issues. 

Case of mature child 

A mature child who is above the age of 11 or 14 depending on the state will have a say regarding which parent he or she wants to stay with. This is taken seriously by the court where the child is of age to make decisions that are not influenced by emotions. For this case, a judge is likely to interview the child privately and his or her opinions will form the basis of determination.

The courts’ jurisdiction 

In some instances, the court may lack jurisdiction to handle a case where parents live in different countries. This comes especially where there are no common conventions or treaties binding the countries together on matters related to child custody and determination. 

A good example is given in the case of Atout V. Atout and where the court did not have the capacity or jurisdiction to determine matters to do with the child custody case. This was a case of parents who live in Ontario, United States, and Qatar. The children in this case were born in Qatar and this is where the court did not find itself in the capacity to determine the case due to the nature of its jurisdiction. 

The jurisdiction of the court is determined by the habitual residence of the child. That means, for the case of the Atout, the habitual residence of the child is not in the United States and hence the court in the United States lacked jurisdictions over the same matter. 

Therefore, when the matter is presented in the court, the court’s first assignment is to check whether they have the jurisdiction to handle the case or not. 

Are child custody orders enforceable when parents live in different countries? 

This is a matter that has troubled so many parents who have custody battles and are living in different countries. It is important to note that child custody orders may not work outside the United States and this has led to parents who live in foreign countries to abduct children and that is where the Hague Convention Treaty comes to help as we did mention earlier. 

The Hague Convention Treaty works to protect the best interests of the child by preventing abduction of children from their habitual residence by the other parent who lives in a different country. It also allows parents to seek legal action against such actions by the other parent. 


Having discussed child custody issues and parents living in different countries, it is important to agree to the fact that the issue is such a complicated one. Parents who are faced with the same battle are encouraged to seek alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, whether negotiation or mediation, so that they can come up with a plan that will serve the best interests of the child.