NOTES ON LEBANON AND CHILD ABDUCTION

Jeremy D. Morley

Return of children abducted to or in Lebanon

  • Jeremy Morley has testified as an expert witness with respect to the laws and practices of Lebanon in respect of international child abduction to Lebanon, and his testimony has been accepted and relied upon.
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  • 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.
  • For Sunni Muslims, the mother has physical custody of her children until they are 12 years old, and then they are to be in the physical custody of their fathers.
  • For Shia Muslims the mother's physical custody generally ends for boys at age 2 and for girls at age 7.
  • For Druze, the mother's physical custody generally ends for boys at age 12 and for girls at age 14.
  • For Christian Orthodox, mothers have custody of their daughters until the age of 15 and for sons until the age of 14.
  • For Protestants, mothers have custody of their daughters until the age of 12 and of sons until the age of 13.  
  • The Catholic Personal Status lawdoes not state a specific age but provides that mothers may nurse their babies until they are 2 years old.
  • 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.
  • 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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