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The Hague Convention: Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the International Child Abduction Remedies Act

On Behalf of | Feb 2, 2024 | Family Law, International Child Abduction |

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, commonly known as the Hague Convention, is an international treaty designed to address the complex issue of child abduction across international borders. Ratified by the United States on July 21, 1988, Congress enacted laws to enforce the treaty procedurally in the United States under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, 42 U.S.C. 11601 et seq. The Hague Convention aims to expedite the return of unlawfully abducted children to their home countries and ensure that appropriate custody orders are established under the laws of the nation of the child’s habitual residence.

The Hague Convention emerged as a response to the rising challenges posed by international child abductions, where a parent, or sometimes other persons with physical custody of a child, takes a child from their habitual residence to another country in violation of the other parent’s custody rights. Recognizing the need for a standardized and expedited process to handle such cases, the Hague Conference on Private International Law formulated the Hague Convention.

The act primarily addresses cases involving the wrongful removal or retention of a child, where custody rights are breached or violated under the law of the child’s habitual residence. The Hague Convention applies to children under the age of 16 and its main objective is the prompt return of children to their country of habitual residence. Importantly, the Convention is not designed to resolve child custody questions. Instead, it focuses on the child’s return to facilitate proper resolution in the country where the child habitually resides.

When Does The Hague Convention Apply?

For a case to be considered under the Hague Convention, certain qualifications must be met. Firstly, both the country of the child’s habitual residence and the country to which the child was taken (or is being retained) must be signatories to the Convention. As of 2022, there are 103 signatory nations to the Hague Convention treaty. Secondly, the child in question must be under 16 years of age. Finally, the removal or retention of the child must be deemed “wrongful” and in violation of custody rights under the law of the country of habitual residence. “Custody rights” under the Hague Convention are defined as both physical custody and rights of access or visitation.

One of the distinctive features of the Hague Convention is its emphasis on a fast and expeditious procedure. The Hague Convention offers relief through both administrative and judicial avenues, and these options are not mutually exclusive. Seeking administrative assistance involves reaching out to the designated Central Authority in the nation of habitual residence or any other party to the Hague Convention. Sometimes simultaneously, or even prior to filing an application with the Central Authority in the country of habitual residence, a party may initiate judicial proceedings in the nation where the child is located. In the United States, this can occur in either the federal United States District Court or the state court where the child is located. The fast procedure is designed to secure the swift return of the child, as soon as six weeks following initiation of the court procedure in the United States federal or state court where the child is located.

How Can Urban Thier & Federer, P.A. Help?

If you are served with a Petition under the Hague Convention or otherwise find yourself involved in a case related to the Hague Convention, it is very important that you seek immediate legal counsel. Given the short timeframe from start to finish for a Hague Convention proceeding, it is critical that you immediately prepare your case, including, but not limited to, filing the appropriate court pleadings, lining up your witnesses, collecting and ensuring the admissibility of your supporting evidence, etc. Attorney John L. Urban heads up the law firm’s litigation practice and senior attorney Patricia M. Lee oversees the law firm’s family law and Hague Convention practice area. Ms. Lee brings over 30 years of experience in family law, with a strong focus on Hague Convention child custody disputes, international aspects of child abduction, and enforcement of foreign court orders

She has extensive experience in Hague Convention matters stemming from numerous countries around the world, including Germany, Belgium, Austria, Italy, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, and Argentina, among others. She has been a resource for the training of U.S. Military Judge Advocate General attorneys in Germany. She is listed as a mentor attorney for Hague Convention matters by the U.S. State Department, Office of Children’s Issues, which has invited her to participate in panel discussions on multiple occasions regarding the amendment or establishment of policies and procedures for the processing of Hague Applications through the U.S. Central Authority.

Do Not Wait – Contact An Experienced Attorney Today

Whether your child has been removed or withheld from your home country, you have been served with a petition under the Hague Convention or otherwise find yourself involved in a case related to the Hague Convention, we can help. To maximize your chances of success, it is imperative that you take immediate action. The first step is to contact our office at 212-257-0898 or use our online contact form. Our team will promptly respond to your inquiry and set up an initial consultation to discuss your case, determine whether we can be of assistance and establish the next steps to protect your and your child’s interests.

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