The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction

International law has serious implications for litigants. The reality is that laws can be drastically different in different counties and regions of the world.

One area that has gotten a great deal of press in the area of custody litigation is the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction (“Hague Convention”). In contested child custody cases, there can be a significant question as to what country should be the location of where a child custody dispute is litigated and resolved.

In an attempt at making international law more uniform on this topic, many countries have adopted the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction. The convention was concluded in 1980 and countries began becoming signatories in 1983.

As of 2018, 99 countries are contracting parties of the Hague Convention. However, lots of counties are not still members of the Hague Convention. Other countries are contracting parties, but do not have great records in terms of compliance. This can create problems in contested child custody litigation where a child is moved to a non-Hague Convention Country.

For those countries that are part of the Hague Convention, a child custody case is supposed to be litigated in the country of the child’s “habitual residence.” Habitual residence is not specifically defined, but the point of the Hague Convention is to prevent a child from being removed away from the country of their habitual residence to another country.

Instead, a child is supposed to be returned to the country that is the habitual residence. Upon return, that country is then to litigate the child custody matter and come to a resolution.

A major point of the Hague Convention is to ensure that parents do not have the ability to flee to another country where they might surmise that they will get a more favorable outcome. A decision on the habitual residence is supposed to be made quickly within six weeks.

There are still regions and counties in the world that are still not a part of the Hague Convention. To get a current listing of what counties are contracting states under the Hague Convention, individuals can go to the U.S. Department of State’s webpage.