Child abduction means that one parent has moved the child to another country or is withholding it in another country without the consent of the other parent with custody.
The Hague Convention on Child Abduction gives you the opportunity to ask the court for a return order. But unfortunately, not all countries are members of this treaty.
The Hague Convention on international child abduction
The Hague Child Abduction Convention has been recognized by many countries and provides a means of quickly obtaining clarity and, in principle, restoring the old situation. Only in exceptional cases the request for return is refused.
The member states each have their own implementation law. There are differences between countries in terms of, for example, the length of the procedure and the age and manner in which children are heard.
Will you get a return order?
If you go through these questions, you will have a better idea of the chances of success of proceedings over an order to return the children.
Find out what defenses you can raise to prevent a return order.
In order to accurately investigate what your chances are, it is advisable to hire an attorney. You can find a lawyer in the country where the children now live, who can start the procedure for you.
The 6 defences in a child abduction case
- The requesting parent was not exercising custody rights
- The requesting parent consented to or acquiesced the move
- The child is of sufficient age and maturity and objects to being returned
- The child is well settled and procedure started only after one year
- Grave risk of physical of psychological harm if the child is returned
- Fundamental principles relating to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms do not permit return of the child
The role of the guardian ad litem
What is the role of the guardian ad litem in a Hague Convention case?
- Does the court appoint a guardian ad litem?
- What is the task or what are the questions he or she has to answer?
- Does (s)he have a talk with the child?
Different lawyers from different countries explain the role of the guardian ad litem.
The subject of habitual residence is mentioned in several articles of the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. But the Convention does not explain what state should be considered the ‘habitual residence’ of a child. We have to look at case law to find out. We will take a closer look at cases from the European Court of Justice and the Supreme Court of the United States.
One week service
In child abduction, time is precious. For example, because a child gets used to the new environment over time and may not want to return to their country of origin after a while. Or because the child has to miss the social contacts in the country of origin and becomes isolated.
It is therefore important that you act quickly and that your lawyer ensures that you quickly know what your chances are of returning the child to the country of origin. The lawyers mentioned on this website have all dedicated themselves to providing the ‘one week service’.
Within one week you will know:
- which documents are relevant
- what information is relevant
- whether there is a chance that a return order for your child can be given by the court
- how to gather proof to support your request or your defences
- whether or not you need to contact a lawyer in the country where your child is currently residing
After that you can discuss:
- whether or not to file a request through the Central Authority or directly to the court
- how to quickly restore contact with the children
- how to weigh everyone’s interests in terms of the removal and the desired order of return
- whether there are opportunities to propose appropriate solutions with some creativity and flexibility
- whether you are open for mediation.
The lawyer of your choice can tell you if you need a lawyer in the country of origin or in the country where your child is currently residing. In the latter case, you can communicate directly with the lawyer in the other country or choose to be accompanied in this process by a lawyer from your own country.
The Hague Convention on Child Abduction places an obligation on the Central Authorities of the Member States to take all appropriate measures to secure the voluntary return of the child or to bring about an amicable resolution of the issue (article 7 of the Convention).
Often this means that the Central Authority offers the parties the opportunity to participate in mediation. If the case does subsequently go through the court, the court may also alert the parties to the possibility of mediation and the benefits that mediation can provide over a court decision.
Posts about child abduction
By Johanthan W. Lounsburry Each year some parents are faced with a devastating reality: their partner has taken their child to another country and is refusing to return. They are left-behind and at a loss of what do. Not only is this an emotionally charged...
These are possible signs that the other parent will abduct the child, by taking it to another country, or by not returning the child from another country: 1. Past behaviour An indicator may be that in the past with this child or another child, the parent has resorted...
Supreme Court of the United States, June 15, 2022 The Supreme Court ruled that a court is not required to examine all possible ameliorative measures before denying a Hague Convention petition for return of a child to a foreign country once the court has found that...
Frequently asked questions
What is child abduction?
How can I ask for a return order?
What should I do if I think my friend of collegue has abducted the child?
What damage can child abduction cause to a child?
What is a child's habitual residence?
Sources of information
HCCH country profiles
On the HCCH website you can find many country reports that give extensive information on how the country in question implements the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. We briefly indicate what information you can find in those reports.
Find a lawyer or mediator
For a number of countries, we provide a list of lawyers and mediators who can assist you in drafting an international parenting plan, in preventing conflicts over the primary residence of the children, and in negotiating and litigating over the children in the event of relocation or child abduction.