Child Abduction Lawyers Germany

As the world gets more connected the number of marriages and cohabitations involving partners from different nationalities is growing. It is a natural occurrence when people find themselves based abroad for reasons relating to work and study (among other reasons). In turn this has resulted in more children being born from such multinational partnerships. This growth has had the side-affect of disputes arising between partners concerning the custody of their children in the event of separations. As a consequence of the partners coming from different national backgrounds, there can be major difficulties when it comes to accessing the children. These cases can be difficult and in turn some have led to legal disputes relating to international child abduction.

At Schlun & Elseven our lawyers are here to provide assistance. As a multidisciplinary firm our attorneys bring our knowledge of immigration law into play alongside their knowledge of family law. In turn, this will ensure that our clients receive comprehensive counsel. On this page, we will outline who we are and the law in Germany relating to international child abduction. Furthermore, we will outline some prominent cases on this topic to provide an illustration of decisions which have arisen in this area. However, if you want more personalised service then make sure to contact us directly using the contact details below.

Our lawyers will be at your side in cases of international child abduction

Schlun & Elseven will provide you and your family with comprehensive legal assistance

International Child Abduction: The Law – The Hague Convention

When it comes to cases of international child abduction the central source of international regulation on the issue is derived 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. The other members include all the members of the EU, the USA, Russia, China and many others. The Hague Convention outlines the meaning of child abduction and states that its aim is to swiftly return children any children who have been removed from a contracting state. Emphasis is placed on the need to respect the legal parameters of the contracting states when it comes to the issue of child custody.

Here are some other points to be aware of when it comes to the Hague Convention:

  • It concerns children under the age of 16,
  • Each state has a central authority for issues around international child abduction. In Germany that central authority is the Federal Office 0f Justice (Bundesamt für Justiz) in Bonn,
  • The central authorities in the states concerned will cooperate in order to ensure the fair and just resolution of cases,
  • An applicant can make their application to the central authority of any of the contracting states to the Hague Convention,
  • A case may be damaged if too much time has elapsed and this delay has resulted in the child becoming settled in their new environment.

For more information on the central authority in Germany here is a link to the German Federal Office of Justice.

Article 19 of the Convention outlines that an International Child Abduction case does not concern itself with the issues with deciding who should have custody of the child. If the parties wish to dispute the current state of custody they should consider a case specific to that area. For more information on child custody please consult our page on the topic or contact our legal team directly. In other words, cases in this area are decided on the factual issue of who has custody at the time of the case and not on who “should” have custody of the child. Bear this in mind when considering an action that involves bringing a child out of the jurisdiction.

The Law: Brussels II a-Regulation

In cases concerning EU member states there has been further legal developments in the form of the Brussels II a-Regulation. This Regulation ensures that all member states are on the same page legally when it comes to cases of international child abduction. For example the Regulation states that decisions made in this area will be uniformly recognised by the courts of the member states unless there are valid reasons not to (in accordance with Article 23).

Essentially this piece of legislation reinforces much of the law that is in the Hague Convention and reinforces the requirement that these cases be swiftly resolved to ensure the child is immediately brought back. The Regulation further states that the procedure of the case will follow that of the legal procedure of the member state in question. With this in mind it is beneficial to avail of legal assistance from the jurisdiction in question. So if your situation involves Germany make sure to contact our office directly!

The Law: Cases Involving Countries Outside the Hague Convention

Whereas cases involving Germany and EU states as well as those in the Hague Convention can be relatively straightforward it is cases involving involving other countries where major difficulties lie. This may mean where a child was brought from Germany to a country that is not part of the Hague Convention (for example Nigeria or Afghanistan) that the situation is more difficult. In this case it is strongly advised to avail of legal assistance as they will be able to assist you in working out an appropriate course of action. Having reliable and competent legal counsel to rely on can make a huge difference. With such cooperation it will be more straightforward when it comes to knowing who to contact and how to resolve the issue in a more favourable manner. In such cases it is worth bearing in mind that the law and culture may be completely different to German law. However, availing of help will ensure you not face these challenges alone.

Case Law: International Child Abduction

Should you avail of our services our lawyers will represent you both inside and out of court. We are aware that in such cases resolving the issues outside of the courtroom can be best for all involved. We will aim to achieve this should it be deemed the best course of action. However, should the issue reach the courtroom it is worthwhile knowing the precedent involved in such cases.

For example, in a recent decision by the Oberlandesgericht (the Higher Regional Court) of Celle – a city in the German state of Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) – a case was brought before the court concerning an abduction from the USA to Germany (case file number: 18 UF 171/11). In this case the mother brought the child in question to Germany. The mother was a German-American citizen while the father was an American citizen. This action was agreed upon with the father of the child for a period stretching from summer 2010 until the beginning of 2012. However, the mother did not return with the child following the end of this timeframe. As a German-American citizen they wished to remain in Germany with the child arguing that the child was now settled in Germany. However, the court did not allow for this argument in this case as a means of breaching the agreement reached the custodial guardians of the child.

Another argument brought forward by the mother was that ruling that the child should return to the USA would mean they would be separated from their mother. This was also rejected by the court as they ruled that the mother was not prevented from returning to the USA with the child. The child was returned to the USA. The spokesperson for the court Dr. Götz Wettich stated that the rights of the father were “exactly the same as the mother” and that permitting such child abduction to continue would constitute “a form of vigilante justice.”

Practice Group for Family Law

Kerstin Wolters - Specialist Family Lawyer

Kerstin Wolters
Specialist Family Lawyer

Abschira Kontny - Family Lawyer

Abschira Kontny
Family Lawyer

Contact our Practice Group for Family Law and International Child Abduction

German Lawyers in the Field of International Child Abduction

Our Family Law team is led by our leading family lawyer Kerstin Wolters. Our lawyers are widely knowledgeable in the area of family law. On this page we provided basic outline of what constitutes international child abduction but if you require more information please contact us directly. By doing so, our lawyers can provide the counsel, assistance and guidance you need as regards how the law relates to your personal circumstances. With offices in Cologne, Düsseldorf and Aachen and conference rooms in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg and Stuttgart our lawyers are available at your convenience.

Our firm also appreciates the value of communication and because of this we can offer our services in a range of languages such as English, French, Spanish, Russian, Turkish and Portuguese as well as German. Our lawyers provide comprehensive assistance when it comes to breaking down the law, communicating the issues in an understandable manner and in providing excellent support both inside and out of court. If you are looking for assistance in the field of international child abduction or in family law in general, make sure to contact Schlun & Elseven.


Use our form below to set out your questions on international child abduction. After receipt of your enquiry, we will give you a brief preliminary estimate on the basis of the facts as explained by you, and will send you a quotation. You can then decide whether or not you want to instruct us in your case. This service is free and without any obligation to continue with our service.

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