Child abduction cases can quickly become complex legal affairs, especially when a parent takes a child across country borders. If you're involved in an international child abduction case, obtaining legal counsel that understands acts such as the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is vital.
At Feinberg & Waller, APC, our current Calabasas international child abduction attorneys have more than 150 years of combined legal experience helping parents navigate abduction cases. We'll fiercely advocate for your parental rights and help you get your child back.
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction & International Child Abduction Laws
Various laws impact international child abduction cases, but perhaps the most important to be aware of is the Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“HCCH”). This is a “multilateral treaty, which seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of wrongful removal and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return and ensuring the protection of rights of access.”
The U.S. and many other countries have signed the HCCH Treaty, which is designed to help parents and law enforcement officials address child abduction cases across country borders. How the HCCH works is fairly simple:
- To file a child abduction case under the HCCH Treaty, a parent must submit a “Hague Application” to the Central Authority, which is part of the U.S. State Department. This application contains details about the abduction and proof the child was wrongfully removed from their habitual residence (the place they stay most often or have the strongest ties to). Parents often offer the following evidence as proof of habitual residence:
- A child's medical records;
- Identification related to their home country (social security, driver's license, etc.);
- School transcripts;
- A custody order procured by a court.
- Each country participating in the HCCH Treaty has a Central Authority. The Central Authority works with parents and Central Authorities from other countries to address child abduction cases.
- Documents submitted from one Central Authority to another are processed more quickly than legal documents otherwise exchanged between two countries.
- If the Central Authorities agree that a child has been abducted, they will take the appropriate legal measures to return the child home and enable the other parent to seek action against the abductor (modifying the custody order, seeking jail time, etc.).
It's important for parents to know that the HCCH follows certain guidelines and may not be a surefire way for a parent to have their child returned. International courts can deny the return of an abducted child if the court believes that:
- Returning the child to their habitual residence would expose them to physical or psychological harm;
- The child has a degree of maturity and wishes to remain in the new country;
- The child has been in the new country for over a year and settled there;
- The parent filing the Hague Application originally consented to the child moving and now wishes to revoke that consent;
- The child would lose fundamental human rights (as defined in their current country) by moving to their old one;
- The parent submitting the Hague Application does not have a valid custody order for the child.
Other Than Submitting a Hague Application, What Can I Do?
If you believe your child was abducted, you should immediately report the abductions to local law enforcement. Local authorities can enter your child's name into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), making it easier to locate them. You can also notify the FBI.
You may also be able to obtain a court order restricting travel for your child. If they have not yet left the country, this court order can prevent the other parent from boarding a flight with them through measures such as restricting the child's passport or requiring a court to approve of travel for them.
If a child from another country is wrongfully retained here in California or has been wrongfully removed from another jurisdiction and landed in California, then you can immediately contact law enforcement here in California and file a Petition for the return of the child in the California court system to seek to return the child back to the child’s appropriate jurisdiction.
At Feinberg & Waller, APC, our Calabasas international child abduction attorneys have more than a decade of experience helping parents navigate abduction cases.
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