Lord Justice Thorpe, Head of International Family Justice forEnglandandWales, has released his annual report, calling for better co-operation between countries on all aspects of family law. Last year alone the courts inEnglandandWalesdealt with more than 250 cases, the majority of which related to child abduction, custody and relocation. This is sharp rise compared to a total of 65 cases in 2008.
The Hague Child Abduction Convention 1980 provides a mechanism to assist in the return of abducted children. There are currently 80 countries that are party to the 1980 Convention, including all EU Member States. If a child has been abducted by a parent who has taken the child to one of the 80 participating countries then an application can be made to the court of that country. If the court is satisfied the child has been abducted then the court will order the summary return of the child to the country of habitual residence where the case of the child’s welfare is then considered.
The 1980 Convention is supplemented by the 1996 Hague Convention, which provides that where a contact order is made in one country, this becomes automatically enforceable internationally in all 80 participating states.
Lord Justice Thorpe’s report, amongst other things, highlighted that the majority of applications in 2012 were outgoing requests to the courts of other countries, with half of those applications being made to European Countries.
If a child has been abducted to a country that is not a member ofthe HagueConvention then the return of that child is far from certain, as the legal remedies available are very limited. With that in mind it is more important than ever to seek legal advice if you are at all concerned that this situation could affect you.
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