The European Union is reporting that increasing rates of international divorces – and cross-border child abductions – have become a real problem in international custody cases. The same is true in the United States. There are some treaties to deal with international custody cases everyone should know about.

International Custody

Go Dutch

The emphasis within the EU is that laws on conflict resolution need to be improved. The ministers in the EU are proposing that EU law should further emphasize protecting the rights of the child, and that decisions on parental child abduction cases must be made by practicing and experienced family judges.

The EU proposes to strengthen the rights of children throughout the dispute resolution procedure between divorcing couples.

If a child is abducted to another EU country by one of their parents, the EU proposes that the matter must be dealt with by practicing and experienced family judges, to ensure the best interests of the child are prioritized.

Hague Child Abductions

I have written – and will be speaking in January – on international custody and child abduction cases under The Hague Convention. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is supposed to provide remedies for a “left-behind” parent, like Mr. Cook, to obtain the wrongfully removed or retained children to the country of their habitual residence.

When a child under 16 who was habitually residing in one signatory country is wrongfully removed to, or retained in, another signatory country, The Hague Convention provides that the other country: “order the return of the child forthwith” and “shall not decide on the merits of rights of custody.”

There are defenses though. For example, the court considered whether there is a grave risk that the child’s return would expose them to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.

Dutch Oven

According to EU policy makers, the child is the weakest link in disputes between parents during international custody cases, and therefore needs all the protection the EU can give. Notably, the hearing of the child is a key issue which merits detailed provisions.

Ministers in the EU also want to improve information-sharing and cooperation between the member states for international custody and divorce cases. The Commission estimates that there are 16 million international families in the EU and sets the number of international divorces in the EU at around 140,000 per year. There are around 1,800 parental child abductions within the EU every year.

The Europa article is here.