In many cases, determining which parent gets custody of the children is a difficult issue for parents going through a divorce. The couple might share custody or one parent may have primary custody. Add in the relocation of one parent, and the stakes grow higher still.
A custody battle between a Georgia man and his wife, who is originally from Costa Rica, recently became an international fight. The wife told the man that she was going to take their two young children to Costa Rica to visit her parents. While there, she decided to divorce the man and has kept the children in Costa Rica ever since.
The man filed a lawsuit in Cobb County, Georgia, which granted him temporary custody. However, it has done little to help him since his children remain out of the country.
The man plans to fly to Costa Rica with his lawyer for a custody trial. Because the case involves another country and implicates an international treaty, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the U.S. State Department will attend the custody hearing as a formal observer.
The law is relatively clear in these situations. The Costa Rican court must order the return of the children because the Georgia man brought the custody action within one year of the children's removal from their home in Georgia. However, the man may receive disappointing news because Costa Rica has a weak record of following the letter of the law in such cases.
While the Georgia couple's case has an extra layer of complexity, all separated couples sharing minor children must resolve custody issues, particularly when one parent is relocating elsewhere.
Under Georgia law, when the parents contest custody, courts focus on finding a solution that is in the best interests of the child. In many cases, that means the court will grant joint legal custody in which one parent has primary custody while the other gets secondary custody.
Two other options also exist. Under sole custody, one parent has primary custody while the other parent has visitation rights. In contrast, the court could grant joint custody, giving both parents primary custody.
Source: Inside Costa Rica, "Child Custody Battles Takes In Costa Rica," April 23, 2012