An Overview of the Hague Convention

The Hague Convention, also known as the Hague Abduction Convention, is an international treaty that aims to protect children from the harmful effects of international abduction by a parent. It was created in 1980 and has been ratified by over 100 countries, including the United Kingdom and most European countries, the United States and many countries in South America, the Middle East and Asia. On this page, we provide an overview of the Hague Convention and its implications for family law.

If your child has been abducted and you need help and support to ensure the safe return of your child, talk to our specialist child abduction solicitors. If the cost of advice is a concern, Legal Aid may be available.

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If you need to speak with someone you will always receive a friendly welcome if you telephone between the hours of 9am-5pm but if we are closed, you can  request a callback. We will call you back as near to your requested time as possible.

What is the Hague Convention?

The Hague Convention is a multilateral treaty that provides a legal framework for the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed or retained in another country. It also ensures that custody and access rights are respected in other countries. The main purpose of the Hague Convention is to deter international child abduction and to secure the prompt return of children to their country of habitual residence.

How does the Hague Convention work?

The Hague Convention works by establishing a central authority in each member country. This central authority is responsible for processing applications for the return of a child and for facilitating communication between the countries involved. If a child is wrongfully removed or retained in a member country, the central authority of the country where the child was taken can request the return of the child from the central authority of the country where the child was taken to.

Implications for Family Law

The Hague Convention has significant implications for family law, particularly in cases involving international child abduction. It provides a legal framework for the prompt return of children to their country of habitual residence, which is often the country where the child has the strongest ties. This can be beneficial for parents who are seeking the return of their child from another country.

The Hague Convention also ensures that custody and access rights are respected in other countries. This means that if a parent has been granted custody or access rights in their country of habitual residence, those rights should be recognised and enforced in other member countries. This can be helpful for parents who are seeking to maintain a relationship with their child after an international child abduction.

What does the Hague Abduction Convention cover?

Raising a case under the Convention doesn’t promise that your child will be repatriated. To make sure your child is returned through a Hague case, you have to prove:

  • That a child was habitually resident in a Convention country and was unlawfully moved to or kept in another Convention country;
  • The child is not yet 16 years old.
  • The moving or keeping of your child is considered unlawful if it contravened your right of custody, and you were exercising those rights at the time of the moving or keeping, or you would have been exercising them were it not for the moving or keeping.
  • The Convention had to be operative between the two nations when the unlawful moving or keeping happened (the dates vary per country); (Note: In a large number of cases, when a country accedes to the Convention, it doesn’t automatically become partners with all the other countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention.) Countries must accept another country’s accession to the Convention as described in the Convention before a treaty partnership is established.

Defences

There are also a number of accepted reasons why a child may not be repatriated. In accordance with the Hague Convention, a court holds the right to refuse the repatriation of a kidnapped child if any of the following defences are relevant:

  • The serious danger of the child being subjected to physical or psychological abuse, or being put into an unbearable situation if returned;
  • The child’s resistance to repatriation and has reached an age and level of maturity that allows the court to consider the child’s perspective;
  • More than a year has elapsed since the improper removal or withholding took place and the child has acclimatised to his or her new surroundings.
  • The party requesting return granted permission or subsequently assented to the child’s removal or retention.
  • The return would contravene the basic human rights and fundamental liberties in the country where the child is currently detained.
  • The party seeking repatriation was not actually exercising custody rights at the time of the improper removal or retention;

Challenges and Controversies

While the Hague Convention has been successful in many cases, there have been challenges and controversies surrounding its implementation. One of the main challenges is the issue of domestic violence. In some cases, a parent may flee to another country with their child to escape domestic violence. However, the Hague Convention does not provide an exception for this situation, which can put the child and the victim parent at risk.

There have also been concerns about the effectiveness of the Hague Convention in certain countries, particularly those with weak legal systems. In these cases, it may be difficult to secure the return of a child or to enforce custody and access rights.

When the Hague Convention Does Not Apply

Over nine hundred countries have signed up to the Hague Convention but what if your child has been abducted to a country which hasn’t adopted the framework. Although the process may be more complex, there are still legal options. Contact our child abduction solicitors for more information and for an initial (free) introductory call.

Seek Legal Advice

The Hague Convention is an important international treaty that aims to protect children from the harmful effects of international abduction. It provides a legal framework for the prompt return of children and ensures that custody and access rights are respected in other countries, but it is extremely complex. If you need advice, it’s important to speak with a child abduction solicitor who will not only have the knowledge to advise but also the network of contacts required to secure the safe return of an abducted child. The network of contacts includes Barristers, the police and Interpol (the International Criminal Police Organisation) and police forces in other countries to find them. If the cost of advice is a concern, Legal Aid may be available.

If you have a question about our services, please use our online form to send us an email.

If you need to speak with someone you will always receive a friendly welcome if you telephone between the hours of 9am-5pm but if we are closed, you can  request a callback. We will call you back as near to your requested time as possible.