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Kids from Canada in overseas child custody dispute

When a couple with children gets divorced, what to do with the kids becomes a crucial part of the settlement terms. Determining child custody arrangements can be difficult even in the simplest of situations. However, when parents are living in different countries, matters can become very complex, as illustrated in a recent case involving a family from Canada living in Europe.

The man and woman, both Canadian citizens, were married in Toronto in 2000. In 2001 they moved to Germany. They had two children while living there, one in 2002, and the other in 2005. Although the kids were raised mainly in Germany, both are Canadian citizens. When the couple separated in 2011, the father was granted interim custody, and they remained in Germany.

In April, 2013, the mother was allowed to take the kids to Canada for schooling. She was given temporary custody, and the three of them left the majority of their belongings behind in Germany. One year later, the father requested the kids be returned, but the mother refused.

A Superior Court justice in Ontario ruled in favour of the father, saying the children's primary residence was in Germany, and to keep them in Canada would be in violation of the Hague Convention. A Divisional Court reversed that decision when the mother appealed the initial ruling. On Sept. 13, 2016, the Court of Appeal in Ontario reversed the reversal and ruled the children did, in fact, primarily reside in Germany and had to be returned to their home.

Two years of legal maneuvering and battling takes a toll on a family, emotionally and financially. Most parents would rather avoid this kind of situation, but may not feel there is any option but to endure litigation, especially if they are living far from one another. A family law firm that deals with child custody negotiations and alternative dispute resolution may be able to help show a different way to proceed.

Source: CBC News Toronto, "Court orders 2 Canadian children to move to Germany with father", Colin Perkel, Sept. 13, 2016

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