A recent Cobb County child custody fight is highlighting the dangers of taking family disputes into one's own hands.
The U.S. State Department became involved in the custody dispute after the mother took the couple's two children to Costa Rica. Initially, she told the father that she and the girls were simply taking a vacation to visit family. However, after arriving, she called the father and told him that she wanted a divorce and that she and the children would not be returning to the United States.
As a result, the father has not seen his children in nearly 11 months. A Georgia court granted him temporary custody of his daughters, but it carries little weight since the girls' mother refuses to bring them home.
The father was expected to travel to Costa Rica to participate in a custody hearing last week; it is still unclear whether that hearing occurred or what its results were. The father's attorney said that the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction sets a clear precedent that the children should be returned home to Georgia.
It can be tempting to try and take child custody matters into one's own hands, especially when a parent has a family home outside the country. However, this is extremely unfair to the children and to the other parent. Every parent has a right to a fair hearing on child custody matters. Further, intentionally severing a parent-child relationship can have long-lasting developmental consequences as the children grow older.
It is also important to note that parents who leave the country with their children could face serious criminal charges upon their return. It is always better to deal with child custody disputes in a court of law.