Interstate/International Child Abduction

International child abduction has been increasing in frequency with the availability of low-cost international travel and modern communications. If one of the parties chooses to return to his or her native country, the likelihood of child abduction or international child custody litigation increases.

The Hague Convention governs international child abduction. The Convention arose in response to the global problem of international child abduction. The parties to the Convention adopted it to protect children internationally from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention and to establish procedures to ensure their prompt return to the nation-state of their habitual residence, as well as to secure protection for the rights of access. However, the Convention only reaches abductions that occur when a parent unlawfully removes a child from one signatory country to another signatory country. The United States ratified the Convention in 1988 and passed the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, which establishes the procedural and jurisdictional rules in proceedings involving the return of children taken from another signatory country and brought to the United States.

To invoke the protection of the Hague Convention, the child at issue must be "habitually resident" in a signatory country and have been removed to another signatory country. The petitioner must then demonstrate that the other parent wrongfully removed or retained the child; however, the Convention does permit limited defenses to the abduction. The courts have difficultly settling on a definition for "habitual residence." Even though most of the circuit courts have considered the issue, they have not reached a consensus on the definition, further complicating matters.

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