One of the attorneys at Justice Law Firm was contacted recently regarding her assistance in working on an international Hague abduction case, referring to a portion of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (known as the “Hague Convention”). The Hague Convention is a treaty between multiple countries wherein each country that is a signatory to the treaty agrees to be governed by certain various principles when children are abducted from one signatory country to another signatory country. The United States became a member of the Hague Convention in 1981. A list of signatory countries can be found here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/Intercountry-Adoption/Adoption-Process/understanding-the-hague-convention/convention-countries.html. You’ll note that our neighboring countries, Mexico and Canada, are signatories to the treaty.
The process can be daunting at first glance (and of course, terrifying for any parent) but there are a lot of resources available for the “left behind” parent. For example, the U.S. Department of State maintains a website that lists immediate steps to take (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/prevention/stopping-abduction-in-progress.html).
If you suspect that your child was illegally taken to another country, your first steps are to contact law enforcement without delay – this would be local law enforcement, your local FBI Office, the U.S. Department of State, and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Next, you will want to begin gathering important documents, such as any court orders relating to your children, passports, birth certificates, photos, and any medical or school records. This is important because the Hague convention sets forth certain elements that need to be met in order to successfully invoke aspects of the Hague convention, namely that (1) prior to the wrongful removal or retention, the child was an habitual resident of a particular signatory country; (2) the removal or retention was in violation of the country’s laws or court order; and (3) the “left behind” parent was actually exercising his or her custody rights at the time of the wrongful removal or retention. Any documents that you can gather to help prove these elements will be essential to a successful resolution. There are, of course, many more intricate details and nuances within each of the aforementioned elements - this is why you should seek an attorney that is well versed and has experience working on a Hague case.
The attorneys at Justice Law Firm have experience in domestic, as well as international, family law issues and would be happy to speak with you about your situation.
A full text of the Hague Convention can be found here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/prevention/stopping-abduction-in-progress.html