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International Parental Abduction

International parental child abduction is an act of illegally taking a child from their home. Usually by one of the parents, but it can also be done by an acquaintance or another member of the family, and taking him to another county. Here’s what you need to know about this growing problem. 

When parents report that their children have been abducted or retained outside of the United States, country officers inform them of potential options and provide resources to help them seek the return of, or access to, their children. International Parental Abduction is more common than you think.

In 2020, country officers responded to 157 initial inquiries in which parents sought information and resources regarding abductions, but did not proceed with providing complete documentation. Country officers handled 664 total outgoing abduction cases, including 246 cases opened in 2020. Of those cases,129 were resolved with the return of 185 abducted children to the United States.

Here’s a look at the Hague Abduction Convention, and what you should know about International Parental Abduction.

Is Your Child at Risk for An International Abduction?

There’s certain traits and characteristics of offending parents that make it easier to spot if they are capable of abduction your child. It is important to remember that these signs do not necessarily mean that your child’s other parent is going to abduct your child; these are signs that you need to make sure you are being more aware of. Here are some examples below:

  • Parents who threaten to abduct their children and/or have abducted their children before.
  • Parents who believe their children are being abused and have a support group that also believes this.
  • Parents with paranoia or sociopathic tendencies.
  • Parents with strong ties and family support in another country.
  • Parents frustrated with the legal system in the United States who have supportive family and friends.

It’s not unusual for a parent who abducts their child to believe that they know what is best for the child. Young children are the easiest to abduct because they don’t know to go for help or do anything to bring attention to their parents taking them.  Some other warning signs and factors that are important to be aware of are:

  • A parent with no source of income/job.
  • A parent who is financially independent.
  • A parent with no real ties to the community they live in.
  • A parent who abruptly quits their job, sells their home, applies for passports.
  • A parent who starts collecting the child’s medical and school records.
  • A parent who has domestic violence and/or child abuse history.

Protecting Your Child From International Parental Abduction

When developing a child custody order, it is important that the order be very specific in regard to the rights of each parent. You should avoid vague phrases like “reasonable visitation” because the word reasonable can be interpreted differently.. Joint custody should also be avoided if there has been any history of abduction or the risk of abduction is high.  

Your court order should include why the court has jurisdiction in the matter of your child and state that both parents were given the opportunity to present their case to the court regarding custody. In order for your court order to be able to be enforced nationwide, the court’s exercise of their jurisdiction has to comply with the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA).

Your court order can specify that your child is not allowed to leave the state you reside in without written consent from the other parent.  

The court order can also ban a parent from applying for a passport for your child.  If your child already has a passport, the court can require that the passport be surrendered. If you have information that your child would most likely be taken to a specific country, you can notify that embassy or consulate and provide them with the court order to request any visa requests for your child be denied.

If the risk to your child being abducted by their other parent is high, the court is typically more likely to put protections in the court order to prevent abduction. The court looks at the following factors: risk of abduction is high, recovering the child would be very difficult, and the abduction would be harmful to the child.

Some additional steps to lower the risk of parental abduction or increase your odds recovering your child if they are abducted would be:

  • Have up-to-date pictures of your child.
  • Have a written detailed description of your child including: height, weight, hair color, eye color, birthmarks, and noticeable physical characteristics.
  • Copies of your child’s Social Security card and passport.
  • Fingerprints of your child.
  • Have your child/children learn how to use a telephone and how to call the police.
  • Keep schools, daycares, and other child care providers informed of current custody orders.
  • Register your child with the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP).

International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA)

The International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA), is a multi-lateral treaty developed by the Hague Convention on Private International Law.

ICARA is United States federal law that implements the HAC between American states and American states internationally with other countries.  It went into effect in 1988.

When a child is alleged removed from his/her habitual residence, or a parent is not allowed his/her visitation with a child under a previous legal agreement, that child’s parent can now bring an action in local court under ICARA.  After a showing of the other parent’s wrongdoing, the alleged wrongdoer must show to the court one of the following:

  • that the person requesting the return of the child was not actually exercising custody’ at the time of the removal or retention;
  • that the person requesting the return of the child had consented to or acquiesced in the removal or retention;
  • that more than one year has passed from the time of wrongful removal or retention until the date of the commencement of judicial or administrative proceedings;
  • that the child is old enough and has a sufficient degree of maturity to knowingly object to the person requesting the return of the child, and that it is appropriate to heed that objection;
  • that there is 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; or
  • that return of the child would subject the child to violation of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Attempting to have one’s child returned to his/her care or to be able to exercise one’s visitation rights either by state to state or from state to an international country is very complicated.  It is highly recommended that a professional family law attorney be retained to navigate the legalities involved.

Child Custody and Visitation Matters

With the exception of international parental abduction, child custody and visitation matters are handled by local and state authorities, and not by the federal government. The matters are governed by the relevant state family court system and human services agency. Therefore, child custody or visitation issues should be reported to state or local law enforcement authorities or a state judicial officer.

In addition to contacting the Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues, law enforcement or left-behind parents should also contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (“NCMEC”): www.missingkids.org. NCMEC works closely with the State Department and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime and administers its Victim Reunification Travel Program. Eligible parents can request financial assistance so they can be reunited with a child located in another country or obtain travel support for the child’s return to the United States.

Finally, seeking a family law firm who are highly experienced in cases involving international child custody disputes (in both courts located in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system) could be an invaluable resource in this incredibly stressful time.

Additional Resources on International Parental Abduction

Final Thoughts

Many countries throughout the world, including the United States, belong to the Hague Convention, and will negotiate treaties to help streamline international justice. When family law disputes cross international boundaries, it is essential to have the help from a knowledgeable family law attorney who understands all of the legalities that go along with international child custody cases.

Our attorneys, 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”). 

See Our Featured Hague Decisions Here:

Contact us here today to learn more.

Who Does the Hague Convention Apply To?

If you believe you might be facing the terrifying situation of International Child Abduction, you will need to determine whether the Hague Convention treaty is “in force” between the U.S. and the other country involved. 

In a nutshell, the Hague Abduction Convention is an international agreement to safeguard intercountry adoptions. An application may be made when a child is taken or retained across an international border, away from his or her habitual residence, without the consent of a parent who has rights of custody under the law of the habitual residence, if the two countries are parties to the Convention. The child must be promptly returned to the habitual residence unless the return will create a grave risk of harm to the child or another limited exception is established.

The Convention has the child’s best interest, and provides a shared civil remedy among partner countries. Depending on where your child was taken determines whether the Convention is “in force” between nations. It is therefore important to determine whether the Convention is in force with the particular country in question and when the Convention went into force between the U.S. and the other country.


The Hague Convention is essentially a treaty that many countries, along with the US have joined. On May 29, 1993, the Convention established international standards of practices for intercountry adoptions. The United States signed the Convention in 1994, and the Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008. 

How do you determine whether the treaty is “in force” between the U.S. and the other country involved? The Federal Judicial Center explains with the following:

‘The issue of whether the Convention is “in force” between states can be complex. There are differences in the processes by which a state can be bound by the treaty, specifically between those who are “member states” and those who become “party states.” 

Member states are states that were members of The Hague Conference on Private International Law at the time of adoption of the Child Abduction Convention at the 14th Session in 1980.

The differences between the two is the following:

  • Actions by member states include ratifications, approvals, or acceptances.
  • Party states are all other countries that agree to be bound by the Convention and “accede” to the Convention.

For member states, the ratification by one member state causes the convention to automatically come into force between that ratifying member state and all other previously ratifying member states. However, when a member state ratifies the Convention, the Convention does not automatically enter into force between that state and a party state that has acceded to the convention.

The treaty “enters into force” between two countries when they are both bound by the Convention. In order for the Convention to enter into force between a member state and a party state, the member state must expressly accept the accession by the party state. 

The same applies to the accession of one party state vis-á-vis another acceding party state; that is, the accession must be specifically accepted by the previously acceding party state.’

101 states are a party to the convention. Like extradition treaties, some countries that have signed a Hague Convention treaty with the United States are noncompliant or refuse to hold up the terms of the treaty.


Below are the countries that participate in the Hague Convention and are “in force” with the United States of America. You can find the official list with dates and more here.

country pop2022 hagueConventionEntryDate
Andorra 77.463 1/1/2017
Argentina 46010.234 6/1/1991
Armenia 2971.966 3/1/2018
Australia 26068.792 7/1/1988
Austria 9066.71 10/1/1988
Bahamas 400.516 1/1/1994
Belgium 11668.278 5/1/1999
Belize 412.19 11/1/1989
Bosnia and Herzegovina 3249.317 12/1/1991
Brazil 215353.593 12/1/2003
Bulgaria 6844.597 2005/01//01
Burkina Faso 22102.838 11/1/1992
Canada 38388.419 7/1/1988
Chile 19250.195 7/1/1994
Colombia 51512.762 6/1/1996
Costa Rica 5182.354 1/1/2008
Croatia 4059.286 12/1/1991
Cyprus 1223.387 3/1/1995
Czech Republic 10736.784 3/1/1998
Denmark 5834.95 7/1/1991
Dominican Republic 11056.37 6/1/2007
Ecuador 18113.361 4/1/1992
El Salvador 6550.389 6/1/2007
Estonia 1321.91 5/1/2007
Fiji 909.466 5/1/2017
Finland 5554.96 8/1/1994
France 65584.518 7/1/1988
Germany 83883.596 12/1/1990
Greece 10316.637 6/1/1993
Guatemala 18584.039 1/1/2008
Honduras 10221.247 6/1/1994
Hong Kong 7604.299 9/1/1997
Hungary 9606.259 7/1/1988
Iceland 345.393 12/1/1996
Ireland 5020.199 10/1/1991
Israel 8922.892 12/1/1991
Italy 60262.77 5/1/1995
Jamaica 2985.094 4/1/2019
Japan 125584.838 4/1/2014
Latvia 1848.837 5/1/2007
Lithuania 2661.708 5/1/2007
Luxembourg 642.371 7/1/1988
Macau 667.49 3/1/1999
Malta 444.033 2/1/2003
Mauritius 1274.727 10/1/1993
Mexico 131562.772 10/1/1991
Monaco 39.783 6/1/1993
Montenegro 627.95 12/1/1991
Morocco 37772.756 12/1/2012
Netherlands 17211.447 9/1/1990
New Zealand 4898.203 10/1/1991
Norway 5511.37 4/1/1989
Panama 4446.964 6/1/1994
Paraguay 7305.843 1/1/2008
Peru 33684.208 6/1/2007
Poland 37739.785 11/1/1992
Portugal 10140.57 7/1/1988
Romania 19031.335 6/1/1993
Saint Kitts and Nevis 53.871 6/1/1995
San Marino 34.085 1/1/2008
Serbia 8653.016 12/1/1991
Singapore 5943.546 5/1/2012
Slovakia 5460.193 2/1/2001
Slovenia 2078.034 4/1/1995
South Africa 60756.135 11/1/1997
South Korea 51329.899 11/1/2013
Spain 46719.142 7/1/1988
Sri Lanka 21575.842 1/1/2008
Sweden 10218.971 6/1/1989
Switzerland 8773.637 7/1/1988
Thailand 70078.203 4/1/2016
Trinidad and Tobago 1406.585 8/1/2013
Turkey 85561.976 8/1/2000
Ukraine 43192.122 9/1/2007
United Kingdom 68497.907 7/1/1988
Uruguay 3496.016 9/1/2004
Venezuela 29266.991 1/1/1997
Zimbabwe 15331.428 8/1/1995

Export the list here. 


Most of the world, including the United States, belongs to the Hague Convention, and they will negotiate treaties to help streamline international justice. When family law disputes cross international boundaries, it is essential to have the help from a knowledgeable family law attorney who understands all of the laws that go along with child custody cases.

Our attorneys, 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. 

Browse Our Featured Hague Decisions:

Contact us here today to set up a complimentary consultation.


Parental Child Abduction? Hire a Hague Convention Attorney.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is the main international agreement that covers international parental child abduction. It provides a process through which a parent can seek to have their child returned to their home country.

A number of countries around the globe have joined a treaty called the Hague Convention. This multilateral treaty was developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) and concluded on October 25, 1980, entering into force on December 1, 1983.

According to the Convention, the removal or retention of a child is “wrongful” whenever it breaches custody rights attributed to a person or any other body. If, at the time of removal or retention, those rights were exercised. Even if a parent already has legal custody of a child, the Convention is needed. U.S. court orders may not be recognized in other countries, and sovereign nations cannot interfere with each other’s legal systems, judiciaries, or law enforcement.


Listed below are the countries that are participants of the Hague Convention in force with the United States of America. The official list and dates the treaties signed can be found here.


Andorra Lithuania
Argentina Luxembourg
Armenia Macedonia, Republic of
Australia Malta
Austria Mauritius
Bahamas, The Mexico
Belgium Monaco
Belize Montenegro
Bosnia and Herzegovina Morocco
Brazil Netherlands
Bulgaria New Zealand
Burkina Faso Norway
Canada Pakistan
Chile Panama
China (Hong Kong and Macau only) Paraguay
Colombia Peru
Costa Rica Poland
Croatia Portugal
Cyprus Korea, Republic of
Czech Republic Romania
Denmark Saint Kitts and Nevis
Dominican Republic San Marino
Ecuador Serbia
El Salvador Singapore
Estonia Slovakia
Fiji Slovenia
Finland South Africa
France Spain
Germany Sri Lanka
Greece Sweden
Guatemala Switzerland
Honduras Thailand
Hungary Trinidad and Tobago
Iceland Turkey
Ireland Ukraine
Israel United Kingdom (Anguilla, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Isle of Man, Montserrat)
Italy Uruguay
Jamaica Venezuela
Japan Zimbabwe



To make sure you have the best possible chance in your Hague Convention case, you need an attorney who understands both the dire circumstances and the delicate interplay of state, federal, and international laws.

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

Read the details of our most recent successful Hague Convention case here. Furthermore, see what our clients have to say on representing their Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction case:

“Anthony Joseph and Erin litigated my Hague Convention federal court case and, after a terrifying and tiring few months, we won our case!! If I didn’t have the direction and focus of these two we wouldn’t have won. Anthony is a shark, no one will work harder and smarter and know every detail in the court like this man. AND ERIN!!!!! She is dotting all the i’s and crossing the T’s. Not one thing will get by her. She thinks outside the box and will find a solution to every problem. They way they work together, the other side doesn’t have a chance in court. Because of these two my children are safe with me in the USA and we won an extremely difficult to win case. 9/10 times the children have to go back to the country they were taken from, in this case it was Mexico. I had the odds stacked against me hugely. It’s very difficult to get any judge to side with the person who left with the children. Because of their expertise in Hague, they found the important details to keep my kids and myself away from our abuser who tried to get us back into the scary situation we were living in. THANK YOU TO YOU BOTH. Every day I’m grateful for them changing my life. When something this is important is at stake it is imperative you choose great counsel. And Masters Law Group is it.”


Instead of trying to figure out international law issues alone, contact the Family Law Attorneys at Masters Law Group. Our experienced team will help you navigate the legal complexities of your case and are committed to vigorously representing you in these frightening, high-stakes proceedings.

Contact us to schedule your consultation here today.