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Information on the Hague Convention

About the Hague Convention and International Child Abduction

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a treaty that applies to the international abduction of children, primarily by their parents. Over 80 states have contracted to the convention. These include the United States and Australia, as well as many other countries throughout Europe, the Middle East, South America and Africa.

The Convention is often applicable in cases involving abductions by primary caretakers. Some of these abductions occur in order for the abductor to escape family violence, and courts sometimes return the child even though the primary custodian may not or cannot safely return with the child.

While the Convention requires contracting countries to return allegedly abducted children quickly to their country of habitual residence, there are several exceptions to this, which have been raised as defenses by victims of domestic violence. These are generally explained below:

  • Hague Article 3(a): Removal of the child is wrongful because the child's habitual residence is not the requesting state.
  • Hague Article 12: Where a child has been wrongfully removed or retained in terms of Article 3, one year has passed since the child had been removed from the petitioning state. The child has become well-settled in a new environment.
  • Hague Article 13(a): The state is not bound to order the return of the child if the left behind parent has acquiesced or consented to the removal of the child by the requesting party.
  • Hague Article 13(b): There is a grave risk that return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.
  • Hague Article 20: The return of child would violate principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Hague cases in which these defenses have been used in the context of domestic violence are gathered in our searchable database