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Debunking Common Myths About The Hague Convention

The Hague Convention has gained widespread attention across the globe, yet many parents in the United States still have much to discover when it comes to its true purpose and potential in Parental Child Abduction. 

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a treaty that many countries, including the United States, have joined.

The purpose of the Convention is to protect children from the harmful effects of international abduction by a parent by encouraging the prompt return of abducted children to their country of habitual residence and to organize or secure the effective rights of access to a child. The idea is that custody and visitation matters should generally be decided by the proper court in the country of the child’s habitual residence.

Today, we debunk myths and show you how the convention can be beneficial. Here’s what you need to know.

Myth 1: The Hague Convention is only applicable in cases of child abduction

One of the most common misunderstandings surrounding The Hague Convention is the belief that it is limited to international child abduction cases. While it is true that the convention places significant emphasis on addressing child abduction, its reach extends far beyond this context. The Hague Convention also addresses other critical aspects related to the well-being of children.

An important objective of The Hague Convention is to swiftly return children who have been wrongfully removed or retained by one parent without the consent of the other. This provision helps ensure that children are kept from their custodial parent in a foreign jurisdiction with a proper legal basis.

Furthermore, The Hague Convention recognizes the importance of regular contact and access between children and both of their parents when living in separate nations. This provision promotes a balanced approach that seeks to preserve meaningful relationships and minimize disruptions in a child’s life.

Myth 2: The Hague Convention automatically guarantees the return of a child

Contrary to popular belief, the Hague Convention does not guarantee the automatic return of a child in all cases. However, it is essential to understand that the convention has a legal framework for facilitating the return of a child. But certain circumstances, defenses and exceptions may arise.

One exception is when there is a genuine concern of physical or psychological harm to the child if they were to be returned to their country of habitual residence. The Hague Convention recognizes the importance of the child’s well-being and safety. 

If it can be established that there is a grave risk of harm, the courts may decide not to order the child’s return, prioritizing their best interests. The convention strives to strike a delicate balance between facilitating the return of children in most cases while safeguarding their well-being and protecting their fundamental rights.

Myth 3: The Hague Convention favors mothers over fathers

Another common misconception is that the Hague Convention tends toward mothers over fathers. However, the gender-neutral convention aims to protect the child’s best interests rather than select one parent. It emphasizes the importance of maintaining regular contact between the child and both parents, assuming no risks to the child’s well-being.

The Hague Convention recognizes that children benefit from having a meaningful and ongoing relationship with both parents. It promotes the principle of shared parental responsibility and seeks to maintain regular contact between the child and both parents, irrespective of gender. The convention operates under the assumption that the involvement of both parents contributes to the child’s well-being and healthy development.

When a case arises under The Hague Convention, the focus is not on selecting one parent over the other. Ultimately, the court will determine what arrangement best serves the child’s best interests. The courts consider various factors, such as

  • The child’s age.
  • Attachments and mental stability.
  • The ability of each parent to provide a nurturing environment.

The goal is to arrive at a decision that ensures the child’s overall welfare and enables them to maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents.

Myth 4: The Hague Convention is impossible to navigate

The Hague Convention can vary depending on factors such as legal representation and the case’s complexity. However, the convention also encourages countries to assist parents lacking resources, ensuring that constraints do not impede access to justice.

These central authorities are vital in facilitating communication and cooperation between the countries involved in a case. They work together to locate the child, gather necessary information, and resolve the situation quickly. The Hague Convention highlights the importance of minimizing a child’s time separated from their custodial parent. This allows them to maintain stability in their lives.

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of State and an experienced Family Law Firm dedicated to International Parental Child Abduction cases can also help to enforce the safe return of your child or children.

Myth 5: The Hague Convention is universally accepted and followed by all countries

One important misconception to address is the belief that The Hague Convention is universally accepted and followed by all countries. While the convention has substantial international recognition, not all nations have ratified or acceded to its provisions. This can create complexities, particularly in cross-border child abduction cases, where one or both countries are non-signatories.

Ninety-three countries have ratified The Hague Convention, demonstrating a widespread acknowledgment of its importance in stopping international parental abduction and related matters. These countries have committed to implementing the convention’s principles and cooperating at every stage to help ensure the prompt return of abducted children.

However, it is crucial to recognize the challenges when dealing with countries that have not fully implemented The Hague Convention. In such cases, the lack of a recognized legal framework can complicate efforts to return an abducted child. This can also alter effective communication and cooperation between jurisdictions.

Final Thoughts

The Hague Convention is a critical international treaty that provides essential protection for children against the detrimental consequences of cross-border abduction and retention. It is vital to distinguish between truth and misinformation to promote a clearer understanding of the convention’s purpose. We can foster greater awareness and appreciation for The Hague Convention by dispelling misconceptions.

Voted Best Law Firm 2023, Masters Law Group is home to the best highly-experienced family law attorneys, Erin E. Masters and Anthony G. Joseph, who possess extensive knowledge in Hague law. Our dedicated team of professionals is well-equipped to navigate the intricate landscape of international law, delivering robust representation in these complex and high-stakes proceedings.

Contact our office today to schedule your consultation and gain valuable insights into your case.

Highlighted Hague Decisions:

Understanding the Hague Convention: What U.S Families Need to Know

Understanding the Hague Convention is crucial for families across America facing international custody disputes.

International family law can be complex and challenging, especially concerning child custody disputes. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, aka the Hague Convention, is an international treaty that protects children from parental abduction across international borders. In this blog, we will explore the critical aspects of the Hague Convention and what American families must know. 

What is the Hague Convention?

The Hague Convention is an international agreement that provides a legal framework for the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed or retained outside their home country. The convention guarantees that parents must return children involved in international custody cases to their habitual residence. This deters parents from attempting to relocate children across borders without the other parent’s consent or a court order.

The original Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 were massive, multi-part international treaties that established certain guidelines of international law, including rules of engagement that countries agreed to follow during times of war. In the decades since, many additional Hague conventions have taken place and the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) was established as a permanent organization with the goal of establishing and supporting a set of unified international laws.

Each section and installment of the Hague Conventions has been signed, ratified, and entered into force by a different selection of countries. As such, any list of “Hague countries” based upon a single convention would be suspect and inadequate. However, as of March 2022, the HCCH itself includes 91 permanent members: 90 countries (nearly all of which are also members of the United Nations) and the European Union itself, which is classified as a “Regional Economic Integration Organisation (REIO). HCCH also includes 65 “connected parties” which are not full members, but are either in the process of becoming a member or have signed, ratified or agreed to observe one or more HCCH Conventions (full list can be found here).

How does the Hague Convention work?

The left-behind parent can initiate legal proceedings for the child’s return when someone wrongfully removes or retains them in a Hague Convention country. The central authority in the country where the child is located, such as the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, plays a crucial role in coordinating efforts to find the child and facilitate their return.

Under the Hague Convention, the child’s return is the primary objective, and the legal proceedings focus on determining the child’s habitual residence and whether their removal or retention violated the custody rights of the left-behind parent. The Hague Convention does not address custody or visitation rights issues but instead focuses on the prompt return of the child to their country of habitual residence. 

What should U.S-based families know?

The United States signed the Convention in 1994, and the Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008.

American families need to understand the importance of the Hague Convention when they find themselves involved in international custody disputes. If you find yourself in this situation, here are some tips you can follow.

  • Prompt action is crucial: If you believe your child has been wrongfully removed or retained in a Hague Convention country, it is essential to act promptly. Initiating legal proceedings increases the chances of a successful resolution.
  • Contact the central authority: In the United States, the Office of Children’s Issues within the U.S. Department of State serves as the foremost authority for Hague Convention matters. They can provide valuable information, resources, and assistance locating and returning your child.
  • Gather evidence: It is essential to gather evidence demonstrating your child’s habitual residence and the wrongful removal or retention. Documentation such as birth certificates, custody orders, and communication records can strengthen your case.
  • Consulting with a family law attorney: A family law attorney with experience in Hague law matters is highly recommended. They can guide you through the legal process and help you navigate the complexities of the Hague Convention.

It’s essential to prepare for challenges. International custody disputes can be emotionally demanding. Preparing for language barriers and cultural differences can also lengthen the process.

Working With A Hauge Attorney

Engaging a Hague attorney increases the likelihood of resolving your custody dispute efficiently and effectively. These attorneys deeply understand the Hague Convention and its application in the United States. They can guide you through the complex legal processes and advocate for your rights and interests. One of the primary advantages of working with a Hague attorney is their experience in mediation and negotiation. These methods aim to resolve custody disputes outside of court by facilitating constructive dialogue and finding mutually agreeable solutions.

At Masters Law Group, we understand the complexities involved in international custody disputes and the importance of finding a resolution that aligns with your objectives. Our attorneys will tirelessly advocate for your interests and work towards a favorable outcome. We prioritize open communication with our clients and strive to provide personalized attention to address your concerns and ensure you are well-informed throughout the legal process.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the Hague Convention is essential for families across America facing international custody disputes. Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph have extensive knowledge in handling cases involving international child custody disputes, representing clients in the United States federal court system.

To demonstrate our competence, here are a few recent Hague decisions we have successfully managed:

If you or someone you know is facing the distressing possibility of international parental child abduction, please do not hesitate to reach us.

Contact us today to schedule your complimentary consultation.


In one of our most recent Hague Convention cases, a child was wrongly removed from his residing home in Cyprus and taken to the United States. The attorneys at Masters Law Group succeeded in this landmark ruling in favor of our client.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a crucial treaty that provides a legal framework for resolving cases of international child abduction. This convention aims to ensure the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed or retained from their country of habitual residence.

However, navigating these complex cases can be challenging, especially without the proper legal representation. At Masters Law Group, our team of Hague-experienced attorneys understands the intricacies of this International law treaty and can provide comprehensive support to families facing international child abduction matters.

In this recent case, the husband – represented by Masters Law Group –  filed a petition for the return of his child who was taken from his residence in Cyprus to the United States by his wife – the mother of the child.  The Hague Convention provides that a parent whose child has been wrongfully removed or retained in the United States may petition for the child’s return to his or her country of habitual residence.


The ex-husband filed a petition for the return of his child, a 12 year-old who was visiting his mother in the state of California. This case arises under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act. 22 U.S.C. § 9001 et seq., which implements the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Act entitles a person whose child has been wrongfully removed from his custody in another country and taken to the United States to petition in federal or state court for the return of the child.

In December 2022, the court held a five-day bench trial. The parties had stipulated that the 12-year old had been wrongfully retained under the convention. The trial focused on two affirmative defenses which were ‘grave risk’ and ‘mature child’ defenses.


In this case, the child had lived most of his life in Cyprus. His father had full custody of him since his parents’ separation in 2014. Last summer of 2022, the minor came to the United States for a six-week visit with his mother in California. At the end of the visit, his father came to collect his son but was unsuccessful. The 12-year old has autism and had become determined not to return to Cyprus. Furthermore, his mother refused to turn him over when she was legally obliged to.

Nearly one week after the scheduled meet up went awry, the father filed a Hague Convention petition. The Court observed the 12-year old in chambers, where he answered questions from the Court and counsel for both sides without his parents present. The 12-year old was understandably subdued, but he was composed and calm through several hours of questions from strangers. That time observing the child, (after having had the benefit of testimony and reports from the experts) confirmed that he is on the Autism spectrum.


Both the United States and Cyprus are signatories to the Hague Convention. It is implemented in the United States by the International Child Abduction Remedies Act. 22 U.S.C. §§ 9001 et seq. District courts have concurrent original jurisdiction over actions brought under ICARA. § 9003(a)–(b).

In adjudicating a petition under the Hague Convention, a court may only decide whether the child should be returned to their country of habitual residence. Both the treaty and the statute explicitly preclude courts from making a final custody determination.

The question at hand was where any further custody dispute over the child should play out, not whether living in one country or the other, or with one parent or the other, would be in his best interests.

Both parties agreed that Cyprus was his country of habitual residence at that time; and that the ex-husband was exercising his custody rights as entered by a Cypriot court. Dkt. No. 42. 

The final part of the Convention’s grave-risk exception states that a Court may decline to return a child if it would place the child in an “intolerable situation.” Convention art. 13(b). Exactly what beyond physical or psychological harm would constitute an “intolerable situation” is unclear. It was concluded the child’s life in Cyprus with his father was not intolerable.


In summary, the court granted the petition and ordered the child to return to Cyprus in the custody of his father. In addition, the Court will not impose a longer stay without agreement from both sides. As the Court is ordering the return of a child pursuant to an action under 22 U.S.C. § 9003, it is required to order the respondent to pay necessary expenses incurred by the petitioner—including legal fees and transportation costs related to the return of the child—unless the respondent establishes that such order would be clearly inappropriate. § 9007(b)(3).



Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph have extensive experience in cases involving international child custody disputes in both courts located in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system.

Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph have extensive knowledge and experience with The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“The Hague Convention”) that 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 in the United States may petition for the child’s return to his or her country of habitual residence.


If you are faced with instituting or defending child abduction proceedings under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction involving the United States, work with the experienced lawyers at Masters Law Group. Contact us here today to schedule a consultation.