The Hague Convention

The 1980 Hague Convention on Child Abduction is a powerful instrument in combating and preventing international child abduction.

The purpose of the Convention is:

  • to protect children from the harmful effects of unauthorized removal or failure to return;
  • to establish procedures, which ensure the immediate return of the child to the State of his/her habitual residence, and
  • to ensure the protection of rights of access.

101 countries are contracting parties to the Convention.

In addition to this convention, the national legislation implementing the convention and any other relevant treaties should always be considered.

The history

The Hague Converence on Private International Law

Child abduction is a problem that is becoming increasingly topical due to globalization and is occurring in all parts of the world. The United State of America and Canada were the first states to implement legislation to address this problem. In the Council of Europe, international cooperation in this field has been discussed since 1972. Negotiations within the framework of the Hague Converence on Private International Law led to the 1980 Convention. By 2019, 100 countries were parties to the Convention. Today, there are 101.

Traditional cases of child abduction

In 1980, shared parental authority and shared parenthood was exceptional. At that time, it was common for the abducting parent to have no custody of the child and also to have little care for the child. The child had been separated by the abduction from the parent who had provided day-to-day care until then. And a return order could restore the old situation.

Joint custody and co-parenting

Nowadays, this often involves parents with joint custody, who have jointly cared for the child during and/or after the relationship. An abduction then causes the child to be separated from a parent to whom he or she is very attached. And a return order may cause the child to return to a parent to whom it is very attached, but then live separated from that other parent with custody to whom it is also very attached.

Visitation rights

Another development is that the treaty is increasingly being used when, after a parent with a child moves out, negotiations for a new visitation arrangement are stalled. However, this is not the purpose of the possibility to request a return order. In such cases an application based on Article 21 of the Convention is the obvious choice. This can be used to request the regulation or protection of visitation rights.

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The members

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Table with members

The Hague Conference on Private International Law website has the table showing which States are parties to the Convention.

Table with acceptances of accessions

Many States have become parties to the Convention through the admission procedure of Article 38 of the Convention. In that case, the accession has legal effect only in the legal relationship to States that have accepted the accession. In the ‘spreadsheet showing acceptances of accessions to the Child Abduction Convention‘ you can find out for each state whether that state has accepted the accession of the other state.

Jurisdiction of the court

If the country where the child is now staying is a member of the Convention, but the country from which the child was abducted is not, it may still be possible that the court in the country of actual residence of the child considers itself competent to hear the application for a return order on another ground.

The text

On the HCCH website, you can read various translations of the full text of the Convention. In order to understand the Convention better, you can use the explanatory report by Eliza Pérez-Vera. However, the report is not part of the Convention and has not been approved by the Parties to the Convention.This report is also available on the HCCH website. 

You can read the text of the Convention in English on this CCR website, see the button below.

The Convention is divided into:

  • Scope of the Convention
  • Central Authorities
  • Return of children
  • Rights of access
  • General Provisions
  • Final clauses

The implementation

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The Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference provides information on the HCCH website about the operation of the Convention and the work of the Hague Conference in monitoring its implementation and promoting international co-operation in the area of child abduction. 

The HCCH asks States Parties to fill out a form indicating how the obligations of the Child Abduction Convention are implemented in the State concerned. The completed forms are available on the HCCH website as ‘country profiles‘. These profiles provide information on, among other things, how the Central Authority works and the legislation and procedures in the country concerned.

The HCCH’s site shows what other activities are being undertaken to promote implementation and international cooperation. These include:

  • Guides to Good Practice
  • Special Commission meetings on the practical operation of the Convention
  • The International Hague Network of Judges
  • Judicial Communications
  • Cross-border family mediation
  • Judicial and other Seminars on the International Protection of Children
  • The Judges’ Newsletter on International Child Protection
  • HCCH International Family Law Briefings
  • INCADAT – the International Child Abduction Database
  • iChild: the Electronic Case Management System for the Child Abduction Convention
  • INCASTAT: International Child Abduction Statistics
  • The Latin America and Caribbean Section
  • Non-Hague Convention child abductions

The Hague Child Protection Convention 1996

The Hague Convention on Child Protection 1996 is a multilateral treaty covering a broad range of civil measures to protect children in cross-border situations. The Convention provides uniform rules that prevent conflicting decisions, enable cross-border co-operation between authorities, and secure the recognition and enforcement of measures among Contracting Parties. The text consists of the following chapters:

  • Scope of the convention
  • Jurisdiction
  • Applicable law
  • Recognition and enforcement
  • Co-operation
  • General provisions
  • Final clauses

Articles 5, 7 (3) and 11 create their own jurisdictional basis for taking provisional measures in the Convention. As a result, these measures fall under Chapter IV of the Child Abduction Convention, which provides for the recognition and enforcement of measures.

Sometimes a request for a visitation arrangement based on the 1996 Hague Convention on the Protection of Children is more appropriate than a return request based on the 1980 Hague Convention on the Protection of Children. Of course, the first thing to consider is whether the refugee state and the state of origin are both parties to the Child Protection Convention. This can also be verified on the site of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

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EU Regulation 2019/1111 (Brussels II ter)

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The EU regulation supplements and improves upon the Hague Convention on Child Abduction in several respects.

The regulation is valid for all EU countries, except Denmark, starting August 1st 2022.

This regulation replaces regulation 2201/2003 (Brussels II bis).

We will discuss some important changes in the regulation.

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.