Tag Archive for: International Parental Abduction

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.

Help Prevent International Parental Abduction with Supervised Visitation

If you are concerned your ex partner is at flight risk overseas with your child, supervised supervision could be beneficial. Here’s what you need to know…

Following a separation or divorce, particularly when relations are acrimonious, parental child abduction cases are an important factor to consider. Child abduction cases—particularly those involving international borders—are complex and extremely time-sensitive and require immediate action.

International child abduction often occurs for several reasons. It is a very frightening experience for parents and children alike, and it can have a profound effect on the lives of everyone involved.

Here is how supervised visitation and the help of the Hague Convention could help reduce international abduction.

What is Supervised Visitation?

When a parent’s fitness is in question, a judge may order supervised visitation. This is generally done when there have been allegations of alcohol or substance abuse or domestic violence. The purpose of supervised visitation is to ensure that the parent maintains contact with the child in a safe and comfortable environment.

Supervised visitation allows a parent to visit with their child only after the child has been taken away from the other parent. The visit may take place at the parent’s home or in a designated facility, such as a child care center. In most cases, the parent who has custody of the child will report to a designated visitation center for visits. In other cases, the judge may arrange for the child to be delivered to the parent’s home. In all cases, the judge will specify who is to supervise these sessions.

These orders are meant to protect the child and may include any of the following requirements:

  • A modification or elimination of the parent’s decision-making responsibilities and/or parenting time
  • Supervision by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS)
  • Having an intermediary present during the exchange between parent and child, or taking place in a protected setting
  • Restricting the presence of specified persons while a parent is exercising parenting time with the child
  • Ordering a parent to refrain from possessing or consuming alcohol or drugs during (or right before) parenting time with the child
  • Restricting the presence of certain persons when a parent is spending time with the child
  • Posting a bond to secure the return of the child following the parent’s visit
  • Completing a treatment program for abuse or for any other behavior that is detrimental to the child
  • Any other constraints or conditions that the court deems necessary to provide for the child’s safety or welfare.

The biggest takeaway parents should understand is that supervised visitation is a common tool used to protect children. Parents can still maintain contact with their children, but it also forces them to prove their ability to provide adequate care. Supervised visitation, when combined with the protections provided by the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, makes it more difficult for parents to abduct internationally.

With the help from your attorney, require supervised visitation of the parent by a visitation center or independent organization until the court finds under Section 153.501 that supervised visitation is no longer necessary.

Hague Convention and What You Should Know

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international agreement that aims to prevent children from being abducted from their home country. It provides a process through which a parent can seek to have their child returned to their home country.

Several countries around the world have joined an international treaty called the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Hague Conference on Private International Law drafted and concluded this multilateral treaty, which entered into force on December 1, 1983. In accordance with Article 3 of the Treaty, removal or retention of a child is considered wrongful “where it breaches rights of custody attributed to a person, judicial authority or other body at the time of removal or retention.”

Under the Convention, countries can help one another find solutions for difficult cases of international child abduction. This does not rely on a child’s immigration status or nationality; in certain situations, a child may be wrongfully detained in another country and therefore not a resident there. The Central Authority has the ability to do the following:

  • Be the point of contact for parents and children in international child custody cases.
  • Help locate abducted children.
  • Encourage solutions that work for both parents.
  • Submit documents as part of the application are admissible in courts in partner countries.

It is important to remember that immigration status or nationality does not determine whether a child will be returned to his or her habitual residence.

Final Thoughts

If you and your spouse are having a hard time with child custody, supervised visitation may be the best option for you. Ensuring a child’s safety should always be a number one priority for all parties involved. Especially when faced with international borders as part of a custody dispute, the court system can be very involved in resolving custody rights. 

The family law attorneys at Masters Law Group have experience with international child custody (Parenting Time) disputes. If you believe your child is in the process of being abducted by a parent, legal guardian, or someone acting on their behalf, contact us today for a consultation.

For more information on our Hague Decisions, see here:

International Child Abduction Facts

Parental child abduction cases are, unfortunately, a factor to consider following a separation or divorce, particularly when relations between the parents are acrimonious. Child abduction cases, particularly across international borders, are complex and extremely time-sensitive. Here are  some facts you should know if you’re facing such a case.

“Desiring to protect children internationally from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention…as well as to secure protection for rights of access.”

–Hague Abduction Convention, Preamble

International child abduction happens for a number of reasons. Child abduction can be a very frightening experience to the parents involved and of course to the children. International parental child abduction is an act of illegally taking a child from their home usually by one of the parents across international borders; but it can also be done by an acquaintance or another member of the family.

International child abduction is actually on the rise and many investigation offices have open cases in all 80 countries the Hague Convention applies to. Here’s what you need to know about this growing problem. 

WHY THE HAGUE CONVENTION IS IMPORTANT

Firstly, what is The Hague Convention? 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.

CONVENTION FRAMEWORK

The Convention’s framework allows countries to help one another find solutions for difficult custody cases where a child is abducted. This doesn’t rely on the immigration status or nationality of the child. In certain situations, a child may be wrongfully detained in another country, where they are not a resident. Violations of custodial rights happen when the child is wrongfully removed from their habitual home and now lives in a foreign country.

The Central Authority must do the following:

  • Be the point of contact for parents and children in international child custody cases.
  • Help locate abducted children.
  • Encourage solutions that work for both parents.
  • Submit documents as part of the application are admissible in courts in partner countries.

Presenting a custody order is not needed to prove that a parents custodial rights were violated when the child was taken from their country; this can be proven by showing proof of parenthood or marriage. When a child is returned to his/her habitual residence, it does not depend on the immigration status/or nationality of a child or his or her parents.

Family Abductions are More Common than you Think

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. 

Some years, family abductions make up as much as 90% of abductions that occur, especially by parents. This usually happens in homes where the parents are separated, divorced, or estranged and is more common in lower-income households and during custody disputes. 

If your child wasn’t taken by a family member, the odds are that it was done by someone you know. 

A Fraction of 1% of Child Abductions is Total Strangers

About 100 children a year are abducted by total strangers as you hear on the news, so it’s exceedingly rare for a child to disappear this way. While this is the rarest, it is also the least likely that your child will come home if they are taken by a total stranger. Out of the approximately 100 kids a year that are taken this way, only 50 come back.

In 2020, country officers responded to 157 initial inquiries in which parents sought information and resources regarding parental 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.

Final Thoughts

Nothing can make a parent feel more helpless than having a child taken away to, or held in, a foreign jurisdiction. If you believe your child is in the process of being abducted by a parent, legal guardian, or someone acting on their behalf, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Masters Law Group.

Our Senior Attorneys, 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.

Our Featured Hague Decisions:

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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.