The U.S. Government “Compliance Report” for International Parental Child Abductions

by | Jun 21, 2023

Every year, sometime between April and June, the U.S. Department of State publishes a statutorily mandated report outlining statistics on every case of child abduction reported to their agency in the past calendar year. This report, required by the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2014 (ICAPRA), requires the State Department to list “all countries in which there were 1 or more abduction cases, during the preceding calendar year, relating to a child whose habitual residence is the United States…”.  The report goes a step further in assessing whether each country then demonstrates “a pattern of noncompliance.”  “Pattern of noncompliance” is defined, in ICAPRA, as a “persistent failure” of a country to abide by existing bilateral procedures, or to work with the United States to resolve abduction cases. Even more specifically, in ICAPRA, a “persistent failure” is when at least one of the following exists vis-a-vis the country: (1) 30% or more of the total cases are unresolved, (2) the other country’s Central Authority “regularly” fails to fulfill its responsibilities under the law, (3) the judicial or administrative branches of the other country fail to regularly implement and comply with the law, or (4) law enforcement regularly fails to enforce orders to return abducted children or access orders.

This report is merely a starting point in gathering information for lawyers and their clients.  It only lists statistics for cases reported to the U.S. Department of State.  Not all cases of abduction are reported to the government.  It grades countries where there are no laws or legal mechanisms in place with which the other country must actually “comply”. The language in the report needs to be read carefully and critically.  For example, in some situations, most of the “resolved” cases are actually done by “voluntary” means, which might include the Left Behind Parent withdrawing their request for help, or allowing their child to remain in the foreign country. In other words, the statistics are not necessarily a reflection of the foreign court (or government)’s track record in returning children. Regardless, the report does give some nuggets that are useful in starting research into the foreign country’s situation.  The best mechanism to gather information, however, is to speak with counsel in the foreign country.  The 2023 Report can be found by clicking here.  Also, monitor the Hague Conference’s website.  The Hague Conference has solicited statistics from countries in advance of the organization’s October 2023 Special Commission meeting so it can report on resolution of cases on a global scale.

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