International parental kidnappings of U.S. children have been reported in countries all over the world, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, and the United Kingdom. Navigating international child abduction cases in Washington State can be a legal minefield. During these situations, knowing your legal rights and options through the Hague Convention could prove detrimental to protecting the victims involved.
“International parental kidnapping can have serious emotional, psychological, and even physical consequences for the abducted child.”
– A Law Enforcement Guide on International Parental Kidnapping, U.S. Department of Justice
Every day, children are wrongfully removed from their residing homes and taken to a foreign country, in violation of parental rights.
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction provides an expeditious method to return a child internationally abducted by a parent from one member country to another. The powerful international treaty that can yield beneficial results when it is implemented correctly and appropriately.
Here’s everything you need to know about international child abduction and the Hague Convention for residents of Washington State.
WHAT IS THE HAGUE CONVENTION?
The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects on International Child Abduction was enacted into law through the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA) which provides that a parent whose child has been wrongfully removed from or retained their custody may petition for the child’s return to their country of habitual residence. This treaty was developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) and entered into force in December of 1983.
The countries that participate are also included in a large treaty that governs the way different legal systems work together. The two main goals were to:
- Create a means to ensure that judicial and extrajudicial documents to be served abroad can be brought to the notice of the addressee in sufficient time.
- Improve the organization of mutual judicial assistance.
FILING A CASE UNDER THE HAGUE CONVENTION IN WASHINGTON STATE
Filing a case under the Hague Convention doesn’t immediately guarantee the return of a child. First, the following must be demonstrated:
- The child was habitually residing in one Convention country and was wrongfully removed or retained to another.
- The removal or retention was considered wrongful if it was in violation of custodial rights and those rights were being exercised at the time of removal or retention.
- The Convention was in force between the two countries at the time of wrongful removal or retention.
- The child is under 16 years of age.
RETURNING OF THE CHILD
If your child/children have been wrongfully removed from your home in Washington State and taken overseas, you need to move fast.
The return of an internationally abducted child is often settled through negotiation or with the left-behind parents filing a civil petition pursuant through the Hague Convention. Deciding whether to file a Hague application is an important decision and must be considered based on each case’s specific circumstances. If a court decides the child must be returned to its country of habitual residence, they may make the return contingent upon certain obligations from the petitioning parents. This might include:
- Paying for the travel of the respondent and child to the country where the child habitually resides.
- Arranging housing or paying for living expenses for the respondent and child in the country of the child’s habitual residence.
- An order that the petitioner have no contact with the respondent if the respondent returns to the country of the child’s habitual residence.
- An order that the petitioner will have no contact or limited contact with the child once the child returns to the country of the habitual residence.
POSSIBLE DEFENSES AGAINST THE HAGUE CONVENTION
Under the Hague Convention, a court may deny the return of a child if one of the following applies:
- There is a grave risk that the child’s return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.
- The child objects to being returned and has attained an age and degree of maturity at which the court can take account of the child’s views.
- More than one year has passed since the wrongful removal or retention occurred and the child has settled in their new environment.
- The party seeking return consented to or subsequently acquiesced to the child’s removal or retention.
- The return would violate the fundamental principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the county where the child is being held.
- The party seeking return was not exercising the right of custody at the time of the wrongful removal or retention.
HIRING A HAGUE CONVENTION LAWYER
In acts of desperation, some parents may consider using extra-judicial forms of recovery, such as personally traveling to the foreign country to recover a child. Although it may seem easier and faster to use extra-judicial methods, they often violate U.S. federal laws and the laws of the foreign country involved, and may potentially exacerbate the situation.
With the difficulty of international child abduction and Hague Convention cases, you should instead hire an attorney with extensive international law experience and Hague Convention cases across the globe. Ultimately, working with the family court system to resolve custody issues is the best avenue for ensuring the safety of all parents and children involved.
About Masters Law Group
At Masters Law Group, we are highly experienced in international and family law matters. Our goal is to make the legal system easier to navigate for our clients. We will make sure you clearly understand the legal situation and your rights so you can make the best decisions for you and your family.
Instead of trying to navigate international law issues alone, take advantage of the experience and knowledge of our attorneys at Masters Law Group. We are committed to vigorously representing clients in these high-stakes proceedings.