The Hague Convention and International Child Abductions
The Hague Convention is a private civil device that may be used by a custodial parent in their attempt to gain the return of their child that was taken over international borders without their permission. Many countries have adopted the Hague Convention. The countries that have adopted the Hague Convention have agreed that they will assist in returning a child that has been abducted and wrongfully detained in their country. The Hague Convention also provides a means for helping parents exercising their visitation rights oversees.
The signatories of the Hague Convention have agreed to return an abducted child under the age of 16 if the parent files an application within one year from the date of the abduction. After one year, the court in the host country may decide not to remove the child if they are settled in their new environment. The court may also decline to return to the child if there is evidence that the child will suffer physical or emotional harm if returned to the parent. Moreover, the court may also decline to return the child to the custodial parent if the return would violate principles of human rights and freedoms of the host country.
The parent seeking to invoke the Hague Convention is not required to have a custody decree. All that the parent needs to show is that they were actually exercising their right of custody over the child at the time the abduction occurred. The parent also must illustrate that they did not give the abductor permission to take the child.
The parent may ask for assistance in regaining custody of their child. The parent may also ask for assistance in locating their child and for information regarding the child's welfare. The parent has one year to file the application from the date of the abduction. The parent should file an application regardless of whether a custody decree existed.
All signatories to the Hague Convention have designated a Central Authority to carry out the functions of the Hague Convention. The parent may either file their application with the Central Authority or with the applicable court in the country where their child is being wrongfully held.
In the United States, the Office of Children's Issues will review the parent's application to make sure that it is completed properly. If the application is in conformity with the requirements of the Hague Convention it is forwarded to the proper foreign Central Authority. The Office of Children's Issues will work with the Central Authority until the case is resolved. The parent may have to obtain legal services if the abductor does not agree to relinquish custody of the child to the parent.
If a child has been abducted to the United States, the Hague Convention applies if the requirements of its application are met.
If you need help with any international child abduction, please contact the Office of Children's Issues at the State Department
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