Regarding cases of international child abduction, the central source of global regulation in this area of law derives from the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Germany is a member of the Hague Convention, as are over eighty other countries. Other members include, in particular, all members of the EU, the USA, Russia and China.
The central goal of the Hague Convention is the rapid return of children who have been removed from a contracting state. It is emphasised that the respective legal parameters of the contracting states are to be respected concerning custody regulation.
The following points are to be taken into account concerning the Hague Convention:
- It only concerns children under the age of 16.
- Each state has a central authority for issues related to international child abduction. In Germany, this central authority is the Federal Office of Justice in Bonn.
- The central authorities of the states concerned work together to ensure a fair and equitable resolution of the cases.
- The applicant can apply to the central authority of any state party to the Hague Convention.
- The chances of success may be affected if too much time has elapsed, and this delay has resulted in the child settling into their new environment.
Article 19 of the Hague Convention states that an international child abduction case does not address who should have custody of the child. If the parties wish to challenge the current custody status, parties must do this in separate litigation. Cases concerning international child abduction are decided on the question of who had custody at the appropriate time, not on who “should” have custody of the child. This issue is something to bear in mind if you are considering a case involving the return of a child from another country.