A divorced Pennsylvania parent who is concerned that the other parent will attempt to take their child out of the country in violation of a custody order should be aware of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Over 90 nations, including the United States, have signed on to this treaty, and it allows for legal action to take place between countries to recover abducted children. However, it does have limitations. One is that it may be difficult to locate the child. I
Time is of the essence. Theoretically, a child should be returned immediately under the Hague Convention, but the various systems involved rarely move that quickly. Furthermore, the mandatory immediate return only applies to children who have been gone for less than one year. After a year, it becomes discretionary. There is also a limited amount of time in which to file an appeal.
A petition may be rejected if the child is not a habitual resident of the country where the petition is filed. It is also necessary that the other parent be guilty of “wrongful removal.” This is broadly defined and can occur even if there is not yet a custody order if there is no intent to return. However, it is best if a parent obtains a custody order prior to filing a petition.
A parent who is concerned about an international abduction may want to speak to an attorney for help in preventing one. Parents can also require that their approval be given before their child gets a passport.