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A Look at Restraining Orders from an International Perspective

Published: July 27, 2023

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What Happens when a Restraining Order Case has an International Component?

International Issues Affecting New Jersey Restraining Orders New Jersey gives victims of domestic violence protection against their abusers through restraining orders. Even when a perpetrator of domestic violence moves out of state, a protective order is enforceable in another state through New Jersey’s Violence Against Women Act. But when an abusive spouse or intimate partner commits domestic violence outside of the country and continues to harass their victim in New Jersey, that is a different matter altogether. International cases of abuse or harassment, whether in person or online, require expert legal assistance to know which laws apply and how to get relief.

Wherever the individual harasses, stalks, or threatens harm to another life, the U.S. or foreign laws may or may not punish those who harm New Jersey residents or live in New Jersey while harming a victim in another country. Whether the abuse victim lived with the perpetrator overseas but returned to the United States, the victim fled the United States to return to their country of origin, or the abuser fled the United States with the victim’s children, there may be remedies through international restraining orders and other laws.

How do You Determine if You can Get Relief with a Restraining Order in New Jersey and Another Country?

Federal and international laws determine whether a victim can get protection from an abuser or for their children internationally, but it depends on the circumstances and the country where the parties reside. First off, the marital status of the perpetrator and victim matters. It also matters whether the parties have children together and their custodial arrangement from a divorce. So, when the victim has sole custody, and the abuser kidnaps the children and takes them to another country, the outcome may differ from one parent taking a married couple’s children to another country.

The relationship, circumstances, and abuse make a difference. In New Jersey, a victim 18 or over may obtain a restraining order to protect them against a vast array of offenses, including physical violence, stalking, harassment, assault, kidnapping, false imprisonment, sexual assault, criminal restraint, criminal mischief, terroristic threats, and criminal coercion, by an intimate partner, spouse, date, housemate, or parent of mutual children. A restraining order mandates the perpetrator stay away from the victim and their household, among other orders on penalty of criminal contempt and a potential jail sentence.

Enforceability of New Jersey Restraining Orders Internationally and Vice Versa

Even when a victim has a New Jersey restraining order, the enforceability of the order in another country depends on whether the person restrained is a U.S. citizen living abroad, a U.S. military member in another country, married to the victim, or a citizen of the country where they reside. So, for countries that do not have restraining orders, a victim’s U.S. restraining order may be useless.

In addition, if the country does have restraining orders, whether it enforces the order depends on whether it has a reciprocity agreement with the U.S., meaning whether the country will honor and enforce a U.S. restraining order. For example, Canada has a reciprocity agreement and will enforce a U.S. restraining order. Mexico may also enforce a restraining order to protect a victim against the most serious abuses. The enforceability of a restraining order depends on whether the abuser’s country of residence will cooperate and honor a U.S. protective order.

Regardless of whether the country has a reciprocity agreement with the U.S., a judge may refuse to enforce a New Jersey restraining order on jurisdictional grounds. A court has jurisdiction when it has the power to make a legal decision. So, when the court in the jurisdiction where the abuser lives claims a lack of jurisdiction, the victim may be unable to enforce their restraining order.

Serving a Defendant who is Living Abroad with a Restraining Order

Also, a court may refuse to enforce a restraining order without the proper service of the defendant. A defendant must have notice of an enforcement hearing, allowing them to appear and defend against the allegations. However, serving someone out of the country may be too difficult when they are avoiding the service of papers or when their address is unknown. Moreover, they may be unable to come to the U.S. for a hearing.

A potential solution is to submit letters of rogatory issued by the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs to complete a service of process on the defendant living in another country. However, the process takes a long time to go through the proper diplomatic authorities before it reaches a court. Thus, when someone needs assistance in a hurry, say, to retrieve their children, letters of rogatory may not be a feasible solution.

Filing Domestic Violence Criminal Charges and Seeking Extradition from Another County

Another solution for those who have time to wait is to access the U.S. extradition process to turn over a criminal suspect living abroad for prosecution in the U.S. Extradition treaties exist between the U.S. and other countries so that when a perpetrator violates a restraining order by stalking or harassing a victim overseas and commits cybercrime, like harassing texts and social media posts, the International Affairs Division of the U.S. State Department and federal prosecutors may seek extradition. However, the responding country may not act unless the crimes are serious enough, for physical violence, injury, or human trafficking, for example.

What if a Parent Abducts a Child in NJ and Takes them Out of the Country?

As you can see, there are many complexities with international enforceability of restraining orders and whether New Jersey enforces another country’s restraining order or vice versa is unclear. So, when a victim has a restraining order from another country, and their abuser continues to contact them in New Jersey, the victim may not necessarily get protection from a foreign restraining order.  However, when children are the subject of the order, international and federal laws protect them. As such, when a parent abducts children and brings them out of the country, the U.S. State Department may rely on the Safety and Protection of Minors and International Parental Child Abduction to return children to their native country when they are illegally taken. In addition, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the Hague Convention are international treaties applicable to international child abduction.

In addition to international treaties, several federal laws protect children, such as the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980, the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act, the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, the Extradition and Treaties Interpretation Act of 1998, and the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. These laws provide the resources to locate and return children to their rightful home countries and extradite and prosecute child kidnappers. And the Two-Parent Consent Law requires children’s passports to be authorized by both parents to prevent abductions.

Different domestic violence and child abduction scenarios warrant special considerations for those seeking to prevent or redress abduction. For example, when two U.S. citizens have children and one parent removes the children to another country without authorization or violates a divorce decree and custody order, international and federal laws can help retrieve abducted children. Likewise, U.S. immigrants may get help retrieving children taken by one parent to their home country.

What if a Victim of Domestic Violence Living Abroad Wants to Bring their Children to the U.S.?

However, when spouses live abroad with children and a victim of domestic violence wishes to take the children to the U.S., they may be stuck. Whether the victim is a citizen of a foreign nation or an ex-pat living in another country, the victim can face kidnapping charges and other violations for taking children from a foreign country to the U.S. In fact, the victim can be arrested at the airport or liable for the costs of returning the children and the other parent’s legal fees and travel costs.

The victim is subject to the foreign nation’s laws, even when they have a U.S. order. The foreign country may not honor it. And when the country requires both parents to sign travel documents for children, the victim may not get far trying to leave the country. Furthermore, children born in another country may be considered citizens of that nation. So, the children’s home nation’s laws may govern which documents are necessary to leave the country and for how long.

However, military families are an exception when the service member is stationed overseas. When domestic violence occurs, a victim may obtain a military protective order, a restraining order enforceable on military bases where the service member is stationed. The order only pertains to any other places the service member transfers to when another order issues or the command base recommends transferring the order to the new base or installation.

Contact our Knowledgeable Lawyers to Assist with Your Concerns about New Jersey Restraining Orders Internationally

Given the various laws, treaties, agreements, and court systems across the globe, you need an exceedingly erudite domestic violence lawyer to help you out when you need protection from an abuser or abductor of your children. Our attorneys have years of experience and understanding about the international, civil, and criminal laws applicable to restraining orders and we can review and determine what applies and what is necessary considering your specific circumstances. Seek advice from a New Jersey restraining order attorney with a comprehensive familiarity of how your case may incorporate international components, to understand what you can and cannot do to get protection and enforce any existing restraining orders or custody orders that you have in place. Also, if you need to defend against a restraining order in New Jersey based on allegations involving your conduct in another country, while someone else was visiting the state and the U.S., or related to your children, contact us immediately for the defense help you need. Our attorneys can be reached anytime at (908)-336-5008 to provide you with a free consultation.

Filed under: Restraining Order Case Issues

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