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Child Abduction - it's no holiday!

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Madonna and Guy Ritchie have been in the news recently about their court case concerning their son Rocco. Reports are that Madonna has applied to withdraw her case under the “Hague Convention” or more informally referred to as ‘child abduction’ laws. 

So what is the Hague Convention and what does it do? The Hague Convention is an international treaty which governs the international movement of children. It seeks to provide a remedy in situations where a child is either taken abroad or retained abroad by one parent without the consent of the other. At present there are 93 countries who are signatures to the Hague Convention.

Hague Convention proceedings generally move quite quickly once they are issued. The court will be obliged to return a child to their previous country if they have been wrongfully removed or retained, unless one of the very limited defences available under the Hague Convention is satisfied. There are limited defences available which cover a narrow selection of circumstances in which a child may not be returned. The Hague Convention does not look at welfare issues in depth such as “who is the better parent” or “who is proposing the better care for the child”, it is a question of which country in the longer term is better to deal with those issues. Hague Convention proceedings are therefore summary in nature and look at whether the child should be returned to the country they have removed or retained from.

If there is an agreement for a child to go abroad for a specified period of time, for example a holiday, if the child is not returned at the end of agreed trip, it could constitute a wrongful retention and Hague Convention proceedings could be issued. 

Generally if a parent wishes to take a child abroad they will need the consent of the other parent or any other person who shares parental responsibility and if this is not forthcoming they will need the permission of the court.

It is therefore extremely important that the parents take legal advice if they are wishing to move a child from the country as in certain circumstances child abduction, as it is informally known, can also fall foul of criminal law and criminal proceedings can also be initiated.

If you are wishing to take a child abroad or have concerns about a child being taken abroad without your consent, please contact our specialist, accredited child abduction team who will be more than happy to advise you.