International Divorce and Parenting

Catherine Spanu, Burns & Levinson

Catherine Spanu, Burns & Levinson

When summer and school vacations approach, many divorcing spouses wonder: what happens with the children and the parenting plan? Do I get to take them for vacation, and sign them up for camps? What happens if my coparent refuses to let me take the children to my family reunion that only happens once every ten years?

Summers and school vacations can be stressful due to the changes in routine alone. That stress can be exacerbated by issues communicating with your coparent, or by uncertainty about vacation parenting plans and travel arrangements.

There are no hard and fast rules on these issues under Massachusetts law. However, to minimize stress and disruption for you and, most importantly, for your children, it is useful to know what is typical for coparenting and parenting plans during school and summer vacations, as well as how to address issues that may arise around vacations and coparenting.

A preliminary issue to consider is what is typically ordered by a judge, or agreed to between divorcing parents, as far as summer and school vacation parenting plans:

  • February/April Vacations: Massachusetts public schools typically have two week-long vacations, one in February and one in April. These vacations are
Keep reading

stuffed animal tigerEver wonder what happens when a child is wrongfully taken across international borders?

  • What happens if a child who lives in the United States is wrongfully removed by a parent, taken to France, and kept there?
  • What happens if a child who resides in Portugal comes here to the United States with a parent for vacation and is wrongfully kept here?

What are the rights of a parent left behind?Keep reading

The International Divorce and Hague Convention Maze

Hi there,

One of the most horrifying things to happen in a divorce is to have the other parent take your child, go to another country and refuse to return. The Hague Convention is the international law that governs this type of kidnapping. Not all countries are signatories to the Hague Convention. There are also vast differences between dealing with the Hague Convention in a country that recognizes and follows it (i.e., France), and one that is a signatory, but not really compliant.

Handling a Hague Convention case is a bureaucratic maze. There are very specific rules and requirements that do not exist in an ordinary case, and there is the overlay of dealing with the State Department as well as obtaining two sets of lawyers. You will need a lawyer in the country of the children’s “habitual residence” as well as one in the country to which the children were taken. There often are language barriers as well, so typically you need to find a lawyer who is fluent in English in the country to which the children were taken.

In fact, determining the country of the children’s “habitual residence” can be problematic. Hague Convention … Keep reading

Hi there,

I have been reading the David Goldman saga for some months now.  As a story, it highlights the problems of international custody cases when one parent takes the children to a foreign country and will not return them.  These cases are very difficult, even if the country in question has signed the Hague convention.  You need an American divorce attorney who understands the convention, contacts at the US State Department; an attorney in the foreign country who does family law and understands the Hague convention and has contacts in the foreign State Department.  It is hellishly expensive.  Furthermore, if the country in question hasn’t signed the Hague convention (like most of the Muslim countries) then the result can be tragic.

If you don’t know the Goldman story, in 2004 David’s then wife took their 4 year old American born son to Brazil for what she told David was a 2 week vacation. Once there she ended the marriage, remarried a Brazilian lawyer and then died in childbirth in 2008.

David Goldman has been fighting to be reunited with his son for 5 years and the reunion happened on Christmas Eve.

It should have occurred much, much earlier. … Keep reading