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The Hague Convention and Family Law: FAQs

Parental child abduction is a living nightmare for parents and families across the globe. But what happens when your child is taken overseas? Continue reading here to find out.

Living in an interconnected world makes it easier for families to extend across international borders. However, this can lead to legal challenges that require cross-country cooperation and understanding.  The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“The Hague Convention”) is a treaty that many countries, including the United States, have joined. Its purpose is to protect children and their parents from the harmful effects of this growing crime.

If you have urgent questions or suspect you may face the scenario of International Parental Child Abduction in the future, here are some key questions and answers that could help.

FAQ 1: What Is The Hague Convention?

The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of 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 1983.

There are over 93 countries that participate in the treaty. This treaty governs the way other countries’ 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.

FAQ 2: How Important is Habitual Residence?

Habitual residence is a crucial concept within the Hague Convention. It refers to where a child has established a regular, integrated, and stable life. Determining habitual residence is essential in deciding which country’s legal system should govern issues like custody and visitation. This prevents parents from moving their children to another country to gain a legal advantage in custody disputes.

A left-behind parent pursuing their child’s return must demonstrate that the child was subjected to wrongful removal or retention per the Convention’s definition. It involves proving that the child’s habitual residence was in a foreign country immediately before the alleged illegal action occurred. The left-behind parent must also confirm their custody rights during the purported wrongful removal or retention.

FAQ 3: What issues arise in cross-border disputes under the Hague Convention?

There an infinite issues that could arise when dealing with international disputes. Often, many challenges intertwine legal, cultural, and jurisdictional complexities. While the Hague Convention emphasizes the prompt return of abducted children, certain exceptions exist, known as Hague Convention Defenses:

Defense 1: That the petitioner (parent seeking the return of the child) was not “actually exercising custody rights at the time of the removal or retention” under Article 13.

Defense 2: The petitioner “had consented to or acquiesced in the removal or retention” under Article 13.

Defense 3: More than one year passed from the time of the wrongful removal or retention until the date the petitioner commenced a judicial or administrative proceeding for the child’s return under Article 12.

Defense 4: The child is old enough and has a sufficient degree of maturity to knowingly object to being returned to the petitioner. It is appropriate to heed that objection under Article 13.

Defense 5: That “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,” under Article 13(b), and

Defense 6: That return of the child would subject the child to violation of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms under Article 20.

Furthermore, when a child has dual nationality, conflicts might arise regarding which country’s laws should be applied. Effective communication between the legal systems of different countries can also be hindered by language barriers, slowing down the resolution process. As these cases touch upon the sensitive matters of a child’s welfare and custodial rights, working with an established Hague Convention Attorney can help guide you through these challenging scenarios.

FAQ 4: How Does the Hague Convention Interact with Family Law Matters?

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.

Mediation methods can also offer a more amicable solution to family disputes. Integrating mediation into the Hague Convention proceedings could allow families to address their concerns outside the courtroom, reducing emotional distress and fostering cooperative outcomes prioritizing the children’s well-being.

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.

How Can I Find a Hague Convention Attorney?

To help ensure you have the best possible outcome in your Hague Convention case, you should seek an attorney who understands the intricacy of dealing with state, federal, and international laws.

Family law attorneys Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph of Masters Law Group have extensive experience in cases involving international child abduction disputes in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system. Our unique depth of knowledge, experience, and talent in the Hague Convention field highlights our competence in providing legal counsel for these fast-paced and stressful scenarios. 

For more information on our experience, here are a few of our highlighted Hague Convention cases:

Contact our office today to schedule your consultation.

Child Support Enforcement and the Hague Convention on Recovery of International Child Support

The Hague Convention provides an expeditious method to return a child internationally abducted by a parent from one member country to another. The Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support is a multilateral treaty governing the enforcement of judicial decisions regarding child support (and other forms of family support) extraterritorially.

Relationships between families from different countries and cultures can be complex, especially when a children’s well-being and financial support are involved. In fact, there are approximately 15 million child support cases in the United States, including an estimated 150,000 international cases. In cases where parents reside in different countries, ensuring child support can become even more challenging. With the growing number of international families, there is an uptick in international parental child abductions where parents illegally take their child or children overseas without the other parent’s consent.

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.

The Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance, also referred to as the Hague Maintenance Convention or the Hague Child Support Convention is a multilateral treaty governing the enforcement of judicial decisions regarding child support (and other forms of family support) extraterritorially. It is one of a number of conventions in the area of private international law of the Hague Conference on Private International Law in 2007.

Understanding Hague Child Support Convention

The Convention of 23 November 2007 on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance (HCCH 2007 Child Support Convention) and the Protocol of 23 November 2007 on the Law Applicable to Maintenance Obligations (HCCH 2007 Maintenance Obligations Protocol) seeks to establish a modern, efficient and accessible international system for the cross-border recovery of child support and other forms of family maintenance. This specialized section contains a range of information on the Convention and the Protocol, including their full texts, current status, explanatory documents and other materials which will assist those working with these instruments.

This is the first global child support treaty ratified by the United States. It contains groundbreaking provisions that, for the first time on a world-wide scale, establish uniform, inexpensive, and effective procedures for the processing of international child support cases.

Key Areas of the Hague Child Support Convention

A few highlights from the Hague Child Support Convention:

  • The Convention provides a legal framework and administrative procedures that are both ground breaking and results-oriented.
  • The Convention will greatly speed up the enforcement of U.S. orders. It limits the circumstances under which a court can review and object to an order. It requires recognition of a U.S. order unless a respondent timely raises a challenge and it limits available objections that the respondent may raise to those similar to ones now allowed under U.S. law.
  • The Convention recognizes U.S. due process requirements. It allows a challenge to recognition of a foreign support order if there was a lack of notice and an opportunity for a hearing. It allows a challenge if the order does not comply with U.S. jurisdictional rules. And it allows a court to refuse recognition of an order if it is manifestly incompatible with public policy.
  • The Convention requires treaty countries to provide free legal assistance in child support cases. As you know, Title IV-D agencies in the U.S. already provide such assistance. Now other Convention countries must provide cost-free services to U.S. residents.
  • The Convention provides standardized procedures and timeframes. Each Convention country must follow certain procedures to recognize and enforce child support orders. They must meet certain timeframes for allowing a challenge to an order and for providing status updates. Additionally, there are recommended standardized forms that will reduce the need for a country to request additional information.

Determine the Applicable Countries

In order to navigate international child support, it is crucial to determine which countries are involved in your specific situation. The Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance was ratified by the United States Senate in 2010 and the treaty was signed in August of 2016.  The Hague Convention entered into full force in the Unites States on January 1, 2017, with 33 countries agreeing to work together to establish and enforce child support orders across international borders – since then, more countries have proceeded with the ratification process and are joining the effort. 

Central Authority Involvement

In navigating international child support cases under the Hague Convention, the involvement of the Central Authority is crucial. The Central Authority in your country is a key facilitator responsible for communication and coordination between the parties involved. They act as the vital link between the applicant and the Central Authority of the other participating country, streamlining the exchange of information and ensuring the smooth progress of the case.

One of the primary roles of the Central Authority is to assist in locating the obligor, the parent responsible for paying child support. They employ various mechanisms and resources to find the obligor. This includes:

  • Collaborating with relevant authorities.
  • Conducting investigations.
  • Utilizing international cooperation channels and more.

This process is essential to establish contact with the obligor and initiate legal proceedings. Additionally, the Central Authority aids in obtaining and transmitting relevant documents necessary to the case. These documents can include court orders, financial statements, and other evidence related to child support obligations. The Central Authority ensures that all necessary paperwork is prepared correctly and shared with the Central Authority of the other participating country. By doing so, they can maintain a clear and transparent flow of information.

Obtaining a Hague Child Support Convention Order

After locating the obligor, the Central Authority takes the necessary steps to initiate legal proceedings in the foreign country. They aim to obtain a child support order that outlines the amount and method of child support payments. This order must align with the laws of both the issuing and recipient countries to ensure its enforceability across borders.

Once the Central Authority has successfully obtained the child support order, they actively enforce it within the foreign country. To secure compliance, authorities can employ various enforcement measures, such as wage garnishment or intercepting tax refunds. Through these measures, the Central Authority ensures that the recipient receives the child support payments as directed by the order. By overseeing the entire process, the Central Authority plays a critical role in facilitating the effective transfer of financial support.

The U.S. Department of State can also help enforce International child Support by:

  1. Providing information through the Consular Affairs Internet home page;
  2. Denying passport services, except for direct return to the United States, to persons the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement (HHS/ACF/OCSE) certifies as $2500 or more in arrears;
  3. Encouraging foreign countries to join the Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance (Hague Child Support Convention); and
  4. Facilitating communication among parents, U.S. states, foreign countries, and other U.S. Government agencies on this important subject.

Finally, working alongside a trusted family law attorney who is highly experienced in international law and The Hague Convention is essential when dealing with international matters involving children. They can help you navigate this minefield and give practical, realistic advice on outcomes of your case.

Seeking Legal Assistance

Seeking legal assistance is crucial in effectively navigating international child support cases. When you partner with an experienced family law attorney, such as those at Masters Law Group, you gain the support needed to advocate for your interests and secure your child’s financial stability. Our attorneys will guide you through the process, ensuring that necessary adjustments to child support payments are made whenever necessary.

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. By providing ongoing support that aligns with your family’s evolving needs, we help you safeguard your child’s well-being, even in situations across international borders. With the right legal help, you can confidently navigate the complexities of international child support and protect your child’s interests.

Final Thoughts

Navigating the complex landscape of international child support can be a challenging endeavor. The Hague Convention on Child Support offers a vital framework that empowers parents to obtain what is legally owed. At Masters Law Group, we understand the complexities involved in international child support matters. We are here to provide unwavering advocacy for you and your family. Our team will tirelessly work towards achieving the best possible outcome for your case.

If you have been denied child support from a parent overseas, we can help hold the delinquent parent accountable and guide you on this frightening journey every step of the way.

Contact us here today to set up a consultation.