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Melissa A. Kucinski works with lawyers across the globe handling the international aspects of family law cases.
In addition to her law degree, Melissa obtained a graduate degree from the American University School of International Service, focusing her studies on high conflict cross-cultural mediation and crisis negotiation. Not only does Melissa focus her work as a legal consultant, providing expert case strategy to lawyers and their clients, but she is often retained to mediate complex multi-jurisdictional family law cases.
She has an extensive global network to help support her clients.
Relevant experiences and positions
Melissa designed the International Family Law course at the George Washington University School of Law, and has taught at this prestigious institution since 2010. She is a seasoned author, writing the handbook on representing children in domestic and international custody and abduction cases for the American Bar Association and co-authoring the West Academic text on international family law cases in U.S. courts.
She served as a consultant to the Hague Conference on Private International Law in 2013, and has served on international delegations to meetings in the Netherlands and Japan. She chaired an international working group for International Social Service in Geneva, Switzerland to establish criteria for a global mediator network. She sits on the Joint Editorial Board for Uniform Family Law with the U.S. Uniform Law Commission, and has served as an observer to the drafting of the U.S. custody jurisdiction statute. She has chaired some of the top bar association committees and working groups focused on interantional law, including for the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), the American Bar Association (ABA), and the New York Bar Association (NYSBA).
She is a fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, sitting on its Board of Governors. She has consulted on some of the top Hague Abduction Convention cases in the United States, working alongside legal teams handling matters all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Some personal questions
What is your advice to parents who are thinking about relocating with a child?
I always suggest that parents get as much information as early as possible. They should speak with a lawyer in the country where they are currently living, as well as the country to where they want to relocate. They may want to speak with a child psychologist, educators, and others who know their child and can speak to their child’s adjustment and development, and to gather information about the impact of moving, or not, on the child. In fact, for expat families, getting this information before being sent overseas, away from their home, is important, so that the parents can best plan a strategy if, during their stay overseas, they should want to return home with their child.
Why is it interesting for you as a lawyer to work on these cases?
Most of my work is in a “helping” capacity. In other words, I do not go into court directly on behalf of clients. I typically work alongside a team, providing expert support on international and jurisdictional issues. These cases are always complex and it is often like piecing together an intricate puzzle to ensure that a client’s team is nimble, flexible, and following a sound strategy.
What do you think is important to do or not do as an attorney in child abduction cases?
It is very important to listen critically and to ask a lot of questions. There are a lot of important elements to a client’s case, but in a situation where an international treaty or a multi-jurisdictional law is at issue, the smallest detail that seems unimportant could actually form the basis of the most critical legal argument.
What is your advice to parents dealing with international child abduction?
I think parents need to seek specialist advice early. In the United States, local family lawyers do not often work on cases of international child abduction, and so it may be necessary to seek advice from an international lawyer first to help understand your options and to ensure you act quickly and in the correct court with the proper legal advice. The worst outcome is to file a lawsuit in the wrong court, and lose significant time, money, and potentially jeopardize your legal arguments.
Do you advice parents to file criminal charges in case of child abduction?
I think every family’s situation is very different. Before considering criminal charges, I think parents should get expert legal advice on how criminal charges might impact their child’s ability, in the future, to spend time with the other parent, as well as the impact that the charges may have on a Hague Abduction Convention petition to return their child, a custody case, and even on an amicable settlement.