by Jeremy D. Morley

The Family Code of Algeria was adopted in 1984 and was last amended in 2005. It governs marriage, divorce, legal guardianship and inheritance. It is significantly based on Islamic law. Moreover, Sharia law prevails over the Family Code.

The Code establishes a hierarchy of relatives entitled successively to custody of a child. Only if the first such relative is precluded from custody does the next relative in the hierarchy have a custody right.

Article 64 of the Code provides that the hierarchy starts with the mother, followed by the father, followed by the maternal grandmother and so on down a set list, based solely on the status of the relative.

Accordingly, mother receives sole custody under Algerian law, and only if the mother is shown to be unqualified can the father take custody. There is no scope for any sharing of the custodial role. Sole custody is the only possibility.

In other Sharia law countries, the father is usually automatically assigned the role of guardian, which is generally similar to that of the person with legal custody. Although Algeria previously followed the system, it has been changed. Article 87 of the Code provides that the custodial parent is automatically the parent with exclusive guardianship rights.

Article 65 of the Code provides that the length of the time of automatic presumptive custody expires when a boy reaches the age of 10 and that it continues for a girl until she is of marriageable age. Custody can continue for a boy after the age of 10 if his mother remains unmarried.

Article 66 provides that a mother automatically will normally lose custody if she remarries a man who is not a close relative of the child, or if she is "culturally"  or "morally" unfit to be a mother.

Accordingly, the laws concerning child custody in Algeria are primarily based on the gender of the parent and the gender and age of the child. They are also based on the concept of sole custody, so that there can be no sharing of the role of child custodian.

If the parents are of different religions, the father will usually obtain custody in accordance with the principle that a child should adopt the father's religion. 

If the mother lives outside Algeria, the father will usually receive custody if he is living in Algeria, even if he abducted the child to Algeria.

Algeria is not a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

There are no bilateral agreements in force between Algeria and the United States concerning international parental child abduction.

There is no specific legal procedure for addressing cases of international parental child abduction to Algeria.

The Algerian government treats dual-national Algerian-Americans who enter Algeria on an Algerian passport solely as Algerian citizens. U.S. citizen women married to Algerians do not require the husband's authorization to depart. Dual-national minor children exiting Algeria on an Algerian passport with just one parent will need to provide the Algerian family book (livret de famille) in order to demonstrate the relationship between the child and the accompanying parent.

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