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What Can Be Done About International Parental Abduction

Every day, children are wrongfully removed from the United States or retained outside of the United States in violation of parental rights. Whether trying identifying risk factors or your child/children have been removed from their habitual residence, knowing your legal options through The Hague Convention could prove detrimental in protecting victims involved. 

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.

THE HISTORY OF THE HAGUE CONVENTION

The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“The Hague Convention”) 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.

“International parental [abduction] 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 (July 2018), page 3.

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.

These participating countries are also included in a large treaty that governs the way different legal systems work together. There were two specific goals in mind at the time of The Hague Services Convention’s formation:

  • 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.

According to the Convention, the removal or retention of a child is “wrongful” whenever it breaches the rights of custody attributed to a person or any other body and if at the time of remove or retention those rights were actually exercised. Even if a parent already has legal custody of a child, the Convention is needed because 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.

PREVENTION TIPS

There are several tips to try and prevent international child abduction from taking place. As per Travel.State.Gov:

  • Take action if you think the other parent has taken your child.
  • Get a court order or custody decree: A clear court order may be the most important preventative measure. For example, court orders may include provisions addressing passports, travel restrictions, or custody.
  • Consult an attorney: We strongly encourage parents to consult with an attorney regarding their particular circumstances, including the possibility of obtaining an order that prohibits the child from traveling outside of the United States.
  • Be aware of warning signs: Be on the alert for sudden changes in the other parent’s life, such as quitting a job or selling a home, that may be made in preparation to relocate. For more information, click on the Travel.State.Gov Resources for Parents page.
  • Notify local law enforcement and give them copies of any court orders, including custody, protection, and restraining orders.
  • Consider contacting a country’s foreign embassy or consulate if your child is or may be a dual national of that country. If one parent is a citizen of another country, for example, your child may have claims to a foreign nationality and therefore be able to obtain a passport from that country. See the Travel.State.Gov FAQs for more information on dual nationality.
  • Be aware the United States does not have exit controls or require two-parent consent for a minor to travel across international borders. Law enforcement may be unable to prevent an abduction without a valid court order clearly prohibiting the child’s travel outside of the United States.

RETURNING OF THE CHILD/CHILDREN

International parental abductions 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. A parent who is left behind when a child is abducted to another country faces daunting obstacles to finding and recovering the child.

The return of internationally abducted children is often settled through negotiation or with the left-behind parent 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. Perhaps after separating from their partner, a parent wants to take their child and move to another country. Maybe a parent moved internationally in violation of a custody agreement.

Filing a case under the Convention does not guarantee that your child will be returned. To obtain the return of your child, through a Hague proceeding, you must first be able to demonstrate:

  • That your child was habitually resident in one Convention country, and was wrongfully removed to or retained in another Convention country;
  • The removal or retention of your child is considered wrongful if it was in violation of your custodial rights, and you were exercising those rights at the time of the removal or retention, or you would have been exercising them but for the removal or retention.
  • The Convention must have been in force between the two countries when the wrongful removal or retention occurred (the dates are different for every country); (Note: In many  instances, when a country accedes to the Convention, it is not automatically partners with all of the other countries who have ratified or acceded to the Convention.  Countries must accept another county’s accession to the Convention under the terms described in the Convention before a treaty partnership is created.
  • The child is under the age of 16.

OUTCOMES

If a court decides that a child must be returned to its country of habitual residence, it may make the return contingent upon certain “undertakings” from the petitioning parent. These may include: 

  • A requirement that the petitioner pay for the respondent and child to travel to the country where the child habitually resides.
  • A requirement that the petitioner make appropriate housing arrangements for the respondent and child in the country where the child habitually resides.
  • A requirement that the petitioner pay 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 (e.g., supervised) contact with the child once the child returns to the country of the habitual residence.

As you can see, international custody disputes are almost always extremely complex and delicate situations, and you should not attempt to navigate them without the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney.

CHOOSING YOUR ATTORNEY

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.

– Sharon H, Hague Convention Client Testimonial

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. 

USA Accepts Pakistan’s Accession to the Hague Convention: International Child Abduction.

The United States has now accepted Pakistan’s accession to the 1980 Hague Abduction Convention. The Convention was entered into force between the two countries on October 1, 2020.

What is the Hague Convention?

According to the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), nearly 800,000 children are reported missing each year. That is more than 2,000 a day. The NCMEC says that 203,000 children are kidnapped each year by family members.

The convention is a multilateral treaty that establishes proceedings for the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed or kept away from their home country.

Currently, there are 98 contracting states to the Hague Convention.

Previous Issues with Pakistan

Pakistan has been consistently non-compliant with international norms concerning the return of children who are abducted to Pakistan. In prior years, the U.S. State Department reported frequently to Congress that that was the case.

It is also essential to understand that the Convention contains no provisions that will require recognition and enforcement of foreign custody orders. However, the compliance has been welcomed by the United States with hopes of a brighter future.

United States Accept Pakistan’s Accession

On October 1 2020, The United States accepted Pakistan’s accession to the 1980 Hague Abduction Convention.

The department said on its website, the US accepted Pakistan’s accession to the convention on July 1. It said that the convention would put in place an internationally recognized legal framework to resolve cases of parental child abduction between the two countries.

As partners, we will enhance our shared commitment to protecting children and open a new chapter in the vibrant US-Pakistan relationship…Preventing and resolving cases of international parental child abduction is one of the Department’s highest priorities.

The Department will continue to engage with Pakistani government officials regarding the partnership:

We look forward to welcoming Pakistan as a new partner in this global effort to address international parental child abduction.

If you need assistance with issues regarding International Child Abduction. You don’t have to go it alone.

Schedule a Consultation with Masters Law Group

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.

Masters Law Group has comprehensive 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.

Contact us here today to schedule a consultation.

Navigating The Hague Convention – International Child Abduction

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.

The History of the Hague Convention

The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“The Hague Convention”) 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.

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.

These participating countries are also included in a large treaty that governs the way different legal systems work together. There were two specific goals in mind at the time of The Hague Services Convention’s formation:

  • 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.

According to the Convention, the removal or retention of a child is “wrongful” whenever it breaches the rights of custody attributed to a person or any other body and if at the time of remove or retention those rights were actually exercised. Even if a parent already has legal custody of a child, the Convention is needed because 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.

As of July 2019, there are 101 states are a party to the convention.

Initiating the Process

Deciding whether to file a Hague application is an important decision and must be considered based on each case’s specific circumstances. Perhaps after separating from their partner, a parent wants to take their child and move to another country. Maybe a parent moved internationally in violation of a custody agreement.

Filing a case under the Convention does not guarantee that your child will be returned. To obtain the return of your child, through a Hague proceeding, you must first be able to demonstrate:

  • That your child was habitually resident in one Convention country, and was wrongfully removed to or retained in another Convention country;
  • The removal or retention of your child is considered wrongful if it was in violation of your custodial rights, and you were exercising those rights at the time of the removal or retention, or you would have been exercising them but for the removal or retention.
  • The Convention must have been in force between the two countries when the wrongful removal or retention occurred (the dates are different for every country); (Note: In many  instances, when a country accedes to the Convention, it is not automatically partners with all of the other countries who have ratified or acceded to the Convention.  Countries must accept another county’s accession to the Convention under the terms described in the Convention before a treaty partnership is created.
  • The child is under the age of 16.

Defenses/Objections

If the conditions for the return of a child to the country of habitual residence are established, there are at least six possible defenses, or exceptions to the mandatory return of a child. The burden of proof rests firmly upon the parent who opposes the return.

Under the Convention, a court may deny return of an abducted child if one of the following defenses apply:

  • 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; or
  • More than one year has passed since the wrongful removal or retention occurred and the child has become settled in his or her 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 country where the child is being held.
  • The party seeking return was not actually exercising rights of custody at the time of the wrongful removal or retention;

Note: Interpretation of these exceptions varies from country to country.

Outcomes

If a court decides that a child must be returned to its country of habitual residence, it may make the return contingent upon certain “undertakings” from the petitioning parent. These may include: 

  • A requirement that the petitioner pay for the respondent and child to travel to the country where the child habitually resides.
  • A requirement that the petitioner make appropriate housing arrangements for the respondent and child in the country where the child habitually resides.
  • A requirement that the petitioner pay 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 (e.g., supervised) contact with the child once the child returns to the country of the habitual residence.

As you can see, international custody disputes are almost always extremely complex and delicate situations, and you should not attempt to navigate them without the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney.

Why Choose Masters Law Group?

International custody issues can be incredibly difficult to deal with as a parent because of the concern you have for the safety and security of your child, and should be handled properly by a knowledgeable attorney.

Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph have extensive experience in cases involving international child custody disputes and kidnapping 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:

 

I had a very difficult case in the United States Federal Court. My ex husband filed a Petition against me under the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child abduction asking to return our two sons to Lithuania. Seeking for the legal representation, I was advised by the U.S. Department of State to contact lawyer Erin E. Masters. I was so lucky to have the team of the best lawyers Erin E. Masters and Anthony G. Joseph representing me in this difficult trial.

They represented with the highest standards of law, but also provided support and empathy through the process. The communication was fantastic, always answered every question, explained every situation and possible outcome. As it was a very fast track case, Erin and Anthony worked hard including weekends to prepare everything for the hearing. There was only one hearing and the Decision was totally in my favor. All my family, especially the kids, are very grateful! It is also fair to mention that the legal expenses for the amount of services provided was very very reasonable. Taking in mind my difficult financial situation, Erin even agreed to provide the service for the reduced fee.

I will gladly recommend Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph to represent any of my friends and family in need of an excellent and highly professional family attorney.

— Aistė Šulcaitė

Final Thoughts

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. 

Masters Law Group Case Review: Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a treaty between signatory countries (or “contracting states”) that provides for the prompt return of an abducted child to his or her country of habitual residence. Here, Masters Law Group fought, and won a landmark ruling in favor of our client.

CASE OVERVIEW

The husband filed a petition for the return of his two children, (a two year old and eight-month old) who were taken from their residence in Mexico to Wisconsin, USA by his wife – the mother of the two children – represented by Masters Law Group LLC in the Eastern District of Wisconsin United States District Court where the Law Firm of Conway, Olejniczak & Jerry, S.C. served as local counsel.

This case arises under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA), 42 U.S.C. § 11601 et seq., which implements the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The Act entitles a person whose child has been 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.

CASE DETAILS

In this case, the mother removed the children from where the family was living in Mexico, and took them to Wisconsin.. The father then commenced an action for the return of the children under the Hague Convention. For the reasons that follow, the Court denied the father’s petition.

CASE RESULTS

ICARA AND THE HAGUE CONVENTION Under the ICARA, a petitioner seeking return of a child must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the child has been wrongfully removed or retained within the meaning of the Convention.

The removal or retention of a child is to be considered wrongful where – (a) it is a breach of rights of custody attributed to a person, an institution or any other body, either jointly or alone, under the law of the State in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention; and (b) at the time of removal or retention those rights were actually exercised, either jointly or alone, or would have been so exercised but for the removal or retention.

But “[b]ecause children, especially those too young or otherwise unable to acclimate, depend on their parents as caregivers,” the Monasky Court noted that “the intentions and circumstances of caregiving parents are relevant considerations.” Id. at 727. Importantly, with respect to children, the Court explained that “an infant’s ‘mere physical presence’ . . . is not a dispositive indicator of an infant’s habitual residence.” Id. at 729. “No single fact, however, is dispositive across all cases.”

Based on the foregoing case details (found here),details the court found that the grave risk exception applied and held that returning the children to Mexico and separating them from their mother would expose them to a grave risk of psychological harm or otherwise place them in an intolerable situation. Case 1:20-cv-01028-WCG Filed 10/16/20 Page 9 of 10 Document 102.

CONCLUSION

In sum, the court found that the father has failed to meet his burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that his children were habitual residents of Mexico. In addition, the court found by clear and convincing evidence that returning the children would subject them to a grave risk of psychological harm or otherwise place them in an intolerable situation.

Accordingly, the retention of the children in the United States was not wrongful within the meaning of the Convention. The petition is therefore denied, and this action is dismissed.

HAGUE CONVENTION – INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION LAW WITH MASTERS LAW GROUP

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.

SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION

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