When a child’s parents are from different countries and have citizenship in different countries, it can often make custody issues more difficult. There may be questions about what court has jurisdiction and what rights each parent has prior to a formal and legal custody arrangement. For this reason, the United States and other countries created an agreement, the Hague Abduction Convention, regarding child custody issues, including international parental child abduction.

The U.S. Department of State explains an international parental child abduction is when one parent takes the child out of his or her country of residence in direct violation of a court order of custody. Essentially, if you live in the United States and have a court order for custody of your child and your child’s other parent decides to take the child to another country without your consent, then it is an abduction.

Under the Hague Abduction Convention, if the other country is a member of the treaty, it will take legal measures to return your child to you. This is because countries that signed the treaty agreed to abide by custody laws in other countries. The idea is to look out for the best interests of the child while also honoring the legal systems of other countries, which is something normally not a requirement under the law of sovereign nations.

There are also things you can do to help prevent an abduction, such as signing up for alerts when your child gets a passport or someone renews an existing passport for your child. You may also get a court order that helps to put restrictions on your child’s passport or ability to travel outside the country.