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Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction


sad child sitting

International child custody disputes are always complicated, time-consuming and require skill and knowledge to resolve.  The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty that aims to protect children from the harmful effects of international abduction by providing a legal framework for the prompt return of wrongfully removed or retained children.

As of April 2022, 101 nations have agreed to comply with the Hague Convention. This means that not all countries are signatories, and thus if a child is abducted to a country that is not a signatory, the left-behind parent may have limited options for seeking the return of their child.

To Whom Does the Hague Convention Apply?

The Convention applies to children under the age of 16. To file a Petition pursuant to the Hague Convention, the child must have been a resident of a country that was a signatory to the Hague Convention and the parent whose child was removed must have been exercising custody rights that were breached when the child was removed.

In other words, if you have a US custody order giving you custody rights, you exercised your custody rights according to that order, your child is under the age of 16, your child was living in the United States when removed, and your ex moved your child to another country that is part of the Hague Convention and refuses to bring your child back to the United States, then you have the option of filing a Petition pursuant to the Hague Convention. 

Even if you have the right to file a Petition, there are several exceptions that allow for the child to stay in the foreign country.  Even if no exceptions apply, in some countries, there are cultural differences and courts will ignore a valid US custody order. For example, if in the foreign country’s culture, the father always receives custody and the mother files a Petition pursuant to the Hague Convention, the mom will have an uphill battle.

How a Child Custody Attorney Can Help

If you are faced with an international child custody dispute, it is important to have an attorney who is experienced in this area of law. Additionally, you may need to retain an attorney in a foreign country as well.  The foreign attorney will be familiar with the laws and regulations of the country in which the child is located and can provide valuable guidance and representation.

In conclusion, international child custody disputes can be incredibly complex and emotionally charged. Understanding the concept of jurisdiction, the Hague Convention, comity, cultural differences, and the importance of the child’s best interests are crucial when dealing with such disputes. It is important to seek the help of an attorney who has experience in this area of law and to remember that the child’s best interests should always be the top priority.

The final lesson to consider is that it is less stressful, less expensive, and in the best interest of the child to avoid a foreign abduction.  To learn more about avoiding a child abduction, read our blog “Preventing Child Abduction in International Divorce: What You Need to Know”.  If you are concerned about your ex possibly abducting your child or your ex has already moved to a foreign country with your child, call our child custody attorneys at 616-285-0808.