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International custody dispute may not end soon

After a father took his three children out of the country for his sister's wedding and failed to return, the man's former wife is fighting to see her children again. The move has garnered attention on the state and federal levels. He is now being charged with three counts of aggravated interference with parental custody, and the federal criminal complaint alleges that he used the wedding to deceive his ex-wife into letting him take the children.

According to the father, his decision to move his children to Gaza was in line with the divorce agreement that the couple reached in 2008, which says that the children live with him while the mother has visitation rights. The couple agreed, however, that he could move the children overseas only with the mother's permission.

The man says that his ex-wife had given him permission, which she denies.

Federal court documents accuse the man of using his sister's wedding in Gaza as a cover to convince his ex-wife to sign passport applications for their three children. These documents suggest that the couple had agreed on a return date in March, but they have not been in the U.S. since Feb. 21.

Even with federal charges, it is not likely that Gaza officials will do anything. The Palestinian territory is ruled by Hamas, an Islamic militant group and is not part of the Hague Convention, an international treaty that requires signing nations to return children abducted by parents.

While it may appear that her options are limited, the mother should not give up hope. Consulting with a family law attorney, who can help her work with the federal government, could prove effective.

Source: Washington Post, "US authorities claim divorced father illegally moved 3 children from Kansas to his native Gaza," May 2, 2012

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