International Child Abduction

Protecting the best interests of children

When a parent takes a child across a national border without required permissions, the result is an “international parental child abduction.”

“The States signatory…firmly convinced that the interests of children are of paramount importance in matters relating to their custody…have resolved to conclude a Convention to this effect.”Preamble, Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

Such abductions are both frequent and exceptionally complex from a legal perspective. Since 2003, we have been working with the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law to address the problems that ensue when such abductions takes place.

The Permanent Bureau is an organization that melds disparate legal systems and traditions to develop conventions on a number of problems that cross borders, including the protection of children. Along with the Permanent Bureau we have worked to promote:

  • A more consistent and uniform implementation of the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
  • The creation of “Good Practice Guides” for Hague Convention Contracting States. These guides provide information on how countries should organize their judiciary and systems that deal with international child abduction to fulfill obligations under the Hague Convention, in support of the swift return of abducted children.
  • Cooperation between countries that have signed the Hague Convention and those that have not.
  • Development of a Legal Training Institute to educate judges on the unique legal concepts necessary to resolve these complex international disputes.
97countries are signatories to the Hague International Child Abduction Convention.

In 2010, we co-hosted, along with the Permanent Bureau and the U.S. Department of State, an International Judicial Conference on Cross-Border Family Relocation. The conference brought together more than 50 international family law judges and experts from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States met to address the complexities of international family relocation. Out of that encounter emerged the Washington Declaration, a set of conclusions and recommendations aimed at changing the way the international judicial community views and addresses this serious and growing challenge.

Another valuable tool in bringing resolution to cases involving international parental abduction is mediation. If both parents are willing to discuss the custody of the child, mediation can be used as an alternative to adjudication to reach an agreement that is considered to be in the best interests of the child. In Europe, for instance, Missing Children Europe has launched the Cross-Border Network of Mediators.