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Father breaks child custody order by moving kids overseas

If divorcing parents in Missouri are in disagreement over child custody arrangements, there are certain steps a parent is legally required to take before those arrangements can be changed. In other words, neither a custodial nor a non-custodial parent may break the rules of a custody agreement and not be subject to legal action.

Parents in St. Charles will be interested to hear of one case involving a custodial father who is now facing criminal charges for moving his three children overseas without the mother's permission.

The former married couple divorced in 2008, and they settled in separate homes within a 10-minute drive. The father, who is originally from Gaza, was given custody of the children, and the mother was granted visitation rights. Given the close proximity of the two households, the arrangement seemed to be working.

That all changed, however, when the father took his children back to Gaza for a wedding and never returned. He claims the mother gave permission for him to move the children when she signed off on their passport applications. But when she noticed that the father hadn't booked a return flight for himself or the children, she called authorities.

A court in Kansas, where the family was living, ruled that the custodial father interfered with parental custody by moving the children overseas without the non-custodial mother's permission. In addition, a federal court charged the father with fleeing to avoid prosecution.

The problem now is how the U.S. will enforce those charges in the Gaza Strip, which is an isolated and impoverished Palestinian territory. The U.S. can register an arrest warrant with Interpol, but Gaza doesn't have to honor the warrant, and family law in Gaza is not likely to support the mother in her fight to regain her children.

The case is a stark reminder for divorcing parents in Missouri that child custody agreements require cooperation from both sides. Non-cooperation from either parent can negatively affect the children, while the whole purpose of child custody negotiations is to avoid that outcome.

Source: Huffington Post, "Ahmed Abuhamda, Accused Of Taking 3 Children To Gaza Away From Ex-Wife Bethany Gonzales," May 2, 2012

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Joseph J. Porzenski
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