Could the Duchess’ Dual Citizenship Affect the Future Royal Children?

On May 19, 2018, the wedding of the century took place at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle in the United Kingdom. Los Angeles-born actress Meghan Markle wed Prince Harry in a not-so-traditional, yet very royal fashion. The two met in July of 2016 in perhaps an unconventional way. Meghan and Prince Harry were set up on a blind date by one of her friends. Markel’s only concern was, “Is he nice?”. It turns out that, despite his family name and her fame from both advocating for feminist rights and time on the big screen, neither of them was familiar with the other.

Prince Harry found himself nervous at the sight of Meghan, stating he, “needed to step his game up”. Meghan and Harry were reassured of their love by how quickly they fell for each other. Markle, unfamiliar with the royal family and the traditions practiced before her, was willing to dive head first into the culture.

Markle was suspected to have been on a “fiancée visa”, which would explain the quick turnaround for a royal wedding. She was, however, granted “leave to remain” in the U.K. as partner of a British citizen. Now that they are officially husband and wife, Markle must spend 5 years in the U.K before she can apply for “indefinite leave to remain”.

Dual CitizenshipWhat happens when the official Duke and Duchess of Sussex decide to expand their royal family? Meghan will have the option to become a dual citizen, or a full-blown U.K. citizen if she pleases, which can take up to several years. As for their future children, a child born outside of the U.S. automatically becomes a citizen when: 1) at least one of the child’s parents is a U.S. citizen by birth of naturalization; 2) the child is under 18; and 3) the child is residing or has resided in the U.S. in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent. Assuming Meghan and Prince Harry’s children are born and reside in the U.K., their children will remain there as U.K. citizens, protected by the royal throne. Unless Meghan and Harry indulge in a nasty custody battle over whether royalty is in the best interest of their future children, we shouldn’t anticipate any issues arising.

Here at Marcellino & Tyson, we understand that fairytales don’t always end happily. In situations like this where spouses’ citizenship is divided, serious issues can arise once children are brought into the picture. It is understood that once households (or castles) divide, the best interest of the child is sometimes put into question. It is not uncommon to feel threatened by the fact that your child could be taken to another country. Rest assured that there are laws addressing that possibility. In fact, over 80 countries have adopted the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which states that, “children who have been ‘wrongfully taken’ or ‘wrongfully retained’ overseas should normally be returned properly to their country of habitual residence.”

It is very important to know just how to prevent your child from being taken overseas. Be aware of the location of the child’s passport. If it has been moved or is missing, you know to be on high alert. Also, be aware that controlling the passport won’t necessarily create complete security, as many consulates allow the re-issuing of a passport without the consent of both parents. It is also important to know of your child’s whereabouts, even on the days they’re not in your care. Make sure you instruct them on what to do in case of an emergency. Consider a GPS monitor on their phone, or if younger, consider alerting school authorities of your custody situation. They’re there to help and protect the best interest of the child as well. If you find yourself concerned, either from the disappearance of the passport or failure to hear back from the co-parent, consider contacting the airlines to find out of the child has a ticket in their name. Also keep in mind that collecting any evidence to present to legal counsel could benefit the case in the future.

Most custody cases aren’t as extreme as international child abductions; however, we do find the unauthorized re-location of one parent and child to another state to be a concern on occasion. In North Carolina, the courts have specifically addressed this issue and how a parent may relocate with a child. In the 1992 case of Ramirez-Barker v. Barker, a mother and father took to court over modification of a custody order filed in 1988 after the parents’ separation. Both parents resided in North Carolina, where a routine schedule with the child was agreed upon in a court order. Before Christmas of 1990, Ramirez-Barker, the child’s mother, filed a motion requesting change in visitation, per her move to California. The mother argued that the child was missing out on time with, “numerous members of [her] immediate family” and requested the child be allowed to move. The Honorable Judge Greene followed up with questions regarding whether the child’s best interest would be served by moving to California.

The Court found that, although the 11-year-old had distant relationships with the mothers’ family members, there was no evidence that the mother’s move to California would have a positive impact on the child. It was clear the father-daughter relationship was very strong and present. It was concluded that the significant distance between the child and father would taint the relationship between the two.

Judge Greene acknowledged the fact that the parents engaged in a tit-for-tat battle in court over their rights to the child. To terminate the battle, Judge concluded that the original order agreed upon in 1988, keeping the child in North Carolina, was in the best interest of the child. The mother was to have primary custody with extended visitation privileges to the father. If the mother was to move to California, these custody rights would be switched, giving the father primary custody with extended visitation to the mother.

At Marcellino & Tyson, we’re aware of the unpredictability in life. Whether you’re marrying royalty and interested in protecting your property, or fighting for the rights of your children, we’re here to protect what’s yours.

Sources here, here, here, here and here.

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