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Denver Attorneys Handling International Child Abduction Cases

International child abduction is governed primarily by international law and secondarily by local law of the country of abduction. The 1980 Hague Convention of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention) is the controlling international treaty for countries who are members of the Hague Abduction Convention. The United States is a member of the convention along with approximately 69 other countries.

Unfortunately, not all countries who are members of the Hague Abduction Convention are compliant with the convention. It is extremely difficult to obtain the return of a child from nonmember countries. The only recourse a parent has in such a case is to appeal to the American Embassy in the country of abduction for diplomatic intervention. The attorneys at Frost & Beck, PC, in Denver assist parents with these types of cases.

The Hague Abduction Convention

If your child was abducted to a country that is a party to the Hague Abduction Convention and your child is younger than 16 years old, the treaty will apply to your case.

The Hague Abduction Convention is the primary civil (not criminal) mechanism for parents seeking the return of the children from other member countries. Countries that are party to the Convention have agreed that a child who was living in one Convention country, and who has been removed to or retained in another Convention country in violation of the left-behind parent's custodial rights, shall be promptly returned. Once the child has been returned, the custody dispute can then be resolved in the courts of that jurisdiction. The Convention does not address who should have custody of the child; it only addresses where the custody case should be heard.

Each country that is party to the Convention has designated a Central Authority, which is a specific government office, to carry out specialized Convention duties. At Frost & Beck, PC, we work with the U.S. State Department Office of Children's Issues in assisting left-behind parents from the United States or from foreign countries in obtaining the return of their child.

Requirements of a Prima Facie Case Under the Hague Abduction Convention

Under the Hague Abduction Convention, a left-behind parent needs to show the following:

  • That the child was habitually resident (child's home for a significant amount of time) in one Convention country at the time of the wrongful removal or wrongful retention;
  • The wrongful removal or wrongful retention is in violation of the left-behind parent's custodial rights;
  • The left-behind parent was exercising his or her custodial rights and would continue to exercise his or her custodial rights but for the wrongful removal or wrongful retention;
  • The left-behind parent did not consent or acquiesce to the wrongful removal or wrongful retention;
  • The wrongful removal or retention must have occurred between two member countries of the Convention;
  • The child was under 16 years of age.

At Frost & Beck, PC, we help the left-behind parent complete all of the forms required to commence an action in a foreign country or in the United States Federal District Court to establish the requisite custody rights and habitual residence of the minor child under the Hague Abduction Convention.

Defenses to the Hague Abduction Convention

There are exceptions in the Convention that permit the court to deny the return of the child to the left-behind parent. Those exceptions are:

  • There is a grave risk that the child would be exposed to physical or psychological harm or otherwise placed in an intolerable situation in his or her country of habitual residence;
  • The child objects to being returned and has reached an age and degree of maturity at which the court can take account of the child's views (the treaty does not establish at what age children reach this level of maturity — that age and the degree of weight given to children's views vary from country to country);
  • The return would violate the fundamental principles of human rights and freedoms of the country where the child is being held; or
  • A year has passed since the wrongful removal or wrongful retention and the child is well settled into the new country.

Interpretation of these exceptions varies from country to country. At Frost & Beck, PC, our attorneys can help you defend against a Hague Abduction Petition in the United States if one of the defenses applies to your case.

Principle Behind the Hague Abduction Convention

Each country is a sovereign nation, and sovereign nations cannot interfere with each other's legal systems and courts. Each country has jurisdiction to determine the legal rights and obligations of their citizens or residents. A member of the Convention should not make custody determinations for a child who has been a habitual resident of a member country, as that country is best suited to make such determinations.

Call our Denver law firm for further information or to schedule a consultation. We can be reached at 303-731-6227 or toll free at 866-604-2791. You may also contact us online.