A recent case in Iowa illustrates some of the issues that arise when one parent wants to take a child living in the United States to visit Israel.
In Marriage of Stern, 2015 WL 568584 (Table) (Iowa App.,2015), a father who resided in Israel successfully challenged a geographical restriction that limited his visitation with his son to visitation within the United States where the child lived with his mother.
The Iowa Court ruled that, “Our case law also does not recognize any limitation on visitation rights solely because one of the parents resides outside the borders of Iowa or the United States. ‘The world does not end at the borders of Iowa.'… ‘Our hope for justice for our citizens in foreign courts can best be forwarded by our efforts to offer fair and equitable treatment to foreign nationals in our jurisdiction.'”
Visitation in Israel was especially appropriate because the child was born in Israel to Israeli citizens, lived there during the first two years of his life, had many extended family members there, including a half-brother and half-sister, and had a right to build a meaningful relationship with his father and to fully experience his dual heritage.
While the mother asserted that she feared the child might be retained in Israel, “generally, courts have approved out-of-country visitation when the country is a signatory to the Hague Convention and there is insufficient proof of an intention to wrongfully retain the child.”
While the court authorized such visitation, it should be noted that there are particular concerns about visitation to Israel. For example, there is no durational residency requirement for an Israeli court to exercise custody jurisdiction and there is no statutory concept of a "home state" that would require an Israeli court to enforce a U.S. court order or to defer to a U.S. court as the appropriate forum.
In addition, it can be relatively easy for a parent to obtain a “stop” or “stay of exit” order that will prevent the other parent from taking the child out of Israel at least for a period of time. Such orders can be obtained ex-parte and upon issuance are immediately sent immediately to the border police at all airports and crossing points.
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