Goldman School of Public Policy - University of California, Berkeley

The Hague Domestic Violence Project

The History of The Hague Domestic Violence Project

Assistant Dean Sudha Shetty and Social Welfare Dean Jeffrey Edleson, two key participants in this Project, worked together years ago on a Hague Convention case where domestic violence was an issue. The myriad issues that arose out of that experience inspired Sudha to create The Hague Domestic Violence Project. First started at Seattle University School of Law’s Access to Justice Institute, the project moved to the University of Minnesota in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Washington and now resides at Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy. Since 2003, the goal of this project has been to find a way to solidify domestic violence as an exception to the otherwise required return of a child to his or her country of habitual residence under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Two Scenarios Concerning International Child Abduction

Imagine this: A child is abducted by his own parent to a different country. The parent left behind is enraged, scared and confused. That parent reacts by contacting the local authorities to assist in retrieving the child. INTERPOL alerts are raised, news agencies pick up the story and the general public cries out for justice under the Hague Convention: the return of the child to the left-behind parent.

Now imagine that the abducting parent is a victim of domestic violence. To save herself and protect her children, she flees with them away from their home country to a place where they will be safe. The left-behind parent — this time an abusive husband — contacts his local authorities and demands assistance in retrieving his family. INTERPOL alerts are sent out, news agencies follow developments and the general public cries out for justice.

Under the Hague Convention, the two scenarios raised above would end with the same result: the return of the child to his country of habitual residence and possibly his left-behind parent. However, in the second scenario, the child is returned to an abuser and separated from a parent who acted to protect him.

At the Hague Domestic Violence Project, we believe that these two scenarios deserve different results. Our goal is to help mothers, attorneys, judges and advocates incorporate child exposure to domestic violence as a defense to the otherwise required return of the child to his home country.