How Do You Secure the Return of a Child Taken to Another Country?

childOne of the most frightening occurrences, when a family is going through a transition like a divorce, is the fear that your former spouse would kidnap your child and take him/her without your permission out of the country.

Making matters even more challenging is the fact that so few attorneys understand the legal process used to secure the return of an internationally abducted child. Things are different when a child is taken overseas rather than to another state. The most important thing you can do if this happens to your child is to contact someone who understands the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“Hague Convention”) and knows what action(s) to take to have your child returned your child home as quickly as possible.

What is the Hague Convention?

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction or Hague Child Abduction Convention (HCAC) is a multilateral treaty developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law that establishes a method for returning a child as quickly as possible when he or she has been internationally abducted by a parent from one member country to another if the country is a signatory to the Convention.. It technically helps families avoid the lengthy and frustrating court proceedings that might be involved in a domestic dispute or transnational litigation proceeding in the foreign country and allows litigation in the United States.

According to the HCAC a court proceeding isn’t always necessary if a child has been abducted to another country, provided the non-abducting parent can show the child has been removed from his or her “country of habitual residence” without consent, but it usually is necessary. Although a Court proceeding brought pursuant to the Hague Convention is what they call “summary”. It can also apply when a child is taken with permission but then not returned. Under the HCAC, an international child abduction is a law enforcement matter, not a custody or court matte, and the emphasis is on where the child was taken from, and not rights od custody..

More information about the HCAC is available here.

What Should You Do If Your Child is Internationally Abducted?

First and foremost, contact an attorney familiar with the HCAC.

Any issues related to custody or parenting time will be dealt with later once your child is returned home. At this point, no custody petition or court order is needed – the goal is to simply bring the child back to his or her home country.

Because there is international legal doctrine governing the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to or retained in a country that is not their home country, the primary goal of everyone involved is to return the child. All of the legal issues can be worked out once the child is home.

The benefit of the HCAC is that it moves the process along as quickly as possible and puts the well-being of children as the first priority. Instead of worrying about the courts and following a specific procedure, parents can take comfort in the fact that everyone’s first priority is the safe return of their child.

If your child has been abducted by his or her other parent and you believe it’s possible they are headed out of the country – or you know they’ve left already – you need to act fast. We can help. Contact Gourvitz & Gourvitz, LLC at (973) 467-3200 or (212) 586-1700 to discuss your situation.