Lebanon: Family Law

Lebanon & International Child Abduction

From the State Department's 2016 Report on International Child Abduction:

Lebanon demonstrated a pattern of noncompliance by persistently failing to work with the United States to resolve abduction cases in 2015.

Lebanon adheres to no protocols with respect to international parental child abduction, though the United States and Lebanon signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in April 2004 that seeks to assist a parent residing in one country to obtain meaningful access to his or her child residing in the other country. Since the MOU does not address the resolution of abduction cases, it does not meet the Act's definition of bilateral procedures.

During 2015, the Department had 14 reported abductions to Lebanon relating to children whose habitual residence is the United States. Of those, four were newly reported during the calendar year. By December 31, 2015, no cases had been resolved, as defined by the Act, and four reported abductions had been closed. Of those closed, one was closed by a voluntary agreement between the parents that did not result in the child returning to the United States, two were closed after the left behind parent could not be located for one year, and one was closed because the child turned 16. By December 31, 2015, 10 reported abductions remained open.

In 2015, no abduction cases were unresolved, as defined by the Act. A case is considered "unresolved" under the Act if it remains pending for twelve months after the Department submits an application for return or access to an appropriate authority in Lebanon. During 2015, the Department did not submit applications for return to the Lebanese government. There were no unresolved abduction cases in which law enforcement authorities failed to locate a child, failed to undertake serious efforts to locate a child, or failed to enforce a return order rendered by the judicial or administrative authorities of Lebanon. The average time it takes to locate a child is unknown.

To improve the resolution of international parental child abduction cases in Lebanon, the Department recommends continued engagement with Lebanese government officials to encourage Lebanon to accede to the Convention and to establish other protocols or procedures for resolving international parental child abduction cases.


Return of children abducted to or in Lebanon

  • There are extreme difficulties in returning a child to the United States from Lebanon when retained by a Lebanese parent.
  • Lebanon is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
  • There are no extradition treaties between Lebanon and the United States.
  • Under Lebanese law, Lebanese nationals may prevent their wives and children (even if they are American citizens) from leaving Lebanon.
  • Lebanon does not recognize international parental kidnapping as a crime.
  • Issues of child custody and divorce in Lebanon are generally decided in religious courts under religious law. Thus, if the father is a Sunni Muslim and the mother is a Christian the custody of their children will normally be decided by a Sunni Muslim court.
  • One might petition a civil court to handle a custody case instead of a religious court. The issue would be whether the religious court has jurisdiction. It could take up to two years to have the civil court assume jurisdiction and a minimum of four to five years to have the case decided.
  • Among Sunni Muslims, the father has physical custody of a daughter over the age of nine and of a boy over the age of seven. For Shia Muslims the father generally has physical custody at for boys at age 2 and for girls at age 7.
  • If a father establishes that the mother is unfit or lacking good moral character, she will lose any right to the child. Muslim law requires a child to be raised in the Muslim faith, and if it were proven that a mother tried to raise the child as a Christian, she could be found unfit.
  • Lebanon does not recognize dual nationality. American/Lebanese dual nationals who carry Lebanese papers will be treated as Lebanese nationals by security authorities.
  • A child who is a dual American and Lebanese citizen would be bound by Lebanese law in the eyes of the Lebanese civil courts.
  • The U.S. State Department cannot offer any real assistance even if there were a United States court order directing the return of the child from Lebanon.

Providing wise and experienced legal counsel to international families for many years

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