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Video Commentary

Parents not only have a duty to look after their underage children, but they also have the right to determine their children's place of residence. It is, however, important to remember that all decisions must be made by agreement between the parents. A parent should not make decisions alone, even though he or she considers that it is in the best interests of the child.

If one parent does not provide for the child, it is possible to establish sole custody. This can be done by mutual agreement between the parents or through the courts. If this has not been done neither parent can decide to change their country of residence and cannot leave the country with the child. In the event of disagreement between the parents the laws of the residency country apply and not the country of the child's or parent's nationality.

That is why it is important to take preventive safety measures when choosing to live outside of Latvia with children. 'You should preferably inquire about the legal framework in a particular country and to find out which authorities you will be able to turn to for assistance should it become necessary,' says Inga Kudeikina.

A good way to guard against conflict situations and unnecessary complications that may arise in the future is to obtain notarised travel consent from the other parent, allowing for the other parent to leave the country with the child.  'When there is a conflict between parents, or violence against a parent or child, the legal instruments for resolving such conflicts in the country of residence must be used to protect themselves and the rights of the child. The victim must not flee the country! In this way the victim becomes the offender for violating the other parent's custody rights for not solving the conflict in a legal way,' emphasises Kudeikina. According to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, this includes the illegal abduction of a child.

It is for a competent authority, not for one of the parents, to decide which parent is right and how best to safeguard the rights and interests of the child. The parent from whom the child has been removed has the right to ask the authorities of his or her country of residence to intervene by ordering the child to be returned to the country in which custody disputes are to be resolved.