I have noticed that I receive many e-mails with the same questions, so I have started to post the most frequent questions – and of course the answers to them – for everyone to read for free. As this section might already answer many of your questions, I invite you to browse these FAQ before you contact me (or any other lawyer) about your case.
Before asking a new question, please read through the comments which may already answer your questions. And do you see the “Make a Donation” button on the top right of your screen? If you find these FAQ useful or if you ask a new question, it would be very nice if you make use of it. Thank you!
1. What is an international child abduction?
The removal of a minor child from one country to another country without the (other) parent’s consent constitutes an international child abduction. It usually happens when parents who are from different countries split up and one parent wants to go back to his/her home country and takes the child with him/her.
It also constitutes an international child abduction if the other parent allows you to take the child to another country (usually for a holiday) and you then decide to not return the child to the country of the last residence after the agreed stay is over.
2. What is the remedy against an international child abduction?
If both countries are member states of the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, then you can request the return of the abducted child within one year of the abduction or retention.
3. What do I need to prove for a successful return of my child?
You need to prove that (1) you have at least shared custody for the child, (2) that you have been exercising that custody, e.g. by living in the same house with the child, or also by having regular visitation with the child if you live separated from it, (3) your child had established residence in your country by living there for at least a few months, (4) the other parent either abducted the child to another country or overstayed an agreed visit to another country without your consent.
4. Should I get the police involved?
In a regular case, I would recommend against it. Law enforcement won’t bring your child back without a court order and if you know where your child is staying there is nothing what you need law enforcement for. It usually only adds to the tensions between the parents, which is the last thing that you need.
5. How should I react once I find out that my (ex-)partner abducted our child to another country?
Find a lawyer in that specific country who has experience with child abductions. In Germany, you can of course contact me. For other countries, you can either look at the website of www.reunite.org or contact your Central Authority under the Hague Convention.
You should file for the return of your child as soon as possible to prevent any impression that you are giving consent to the abduction by tolerating it. You should also avoid any other behavior that could be construed or interpreted as consent, e.g. helping the other parent to get settled in the other country, sending money or personal items, working out a visitation schedule for contacts with the child in the other country, discussing which school the child should attend in the other country, etc.
At any step, you should make clear that you won’t accept the retention of the child in the other country.
6. Once I file for the return of my child, how long will it take?
Germany has vowed that child abduction proceedings in its courts should not take longer than 6 weeks, and that timeline is usually met.
7. Will I need to submit evidence about who is the better parent?
No. The child abduction proceeding under the Hague Convention is NO child custody proceeding. It does not matter who is the better parent or who spends more time with the child or anything like this. It is just a dispute about the country in which the child should live. The courts of this country will subsequently have to deal with any arguments about custody, visitation, child support, etc.
One exception to this is if there is a severe physical threat to the child if it were returned to its home country. This is a very rare exception however, which is only met if the parent asking for the return of the child is a homeless alcoholic or something of similar gravity.
8. What happens after I win the return of my child?
As the decision is not a custody decision, the abducting parent is free to return to your country with the child that he/she had abducted. You therefore do not necessarily win physical custody for your child.
All of this needs to be sorted out in a court in your country. Most abduction cases are actually followed by cases for child custody and visitation very swiftly after the return of the child.
9. How do I prevent a child abduction if I fear that one will happen?
If a passport is needed for the child to travel (which is not the case between many European countries), then you could of course try to hold on to the passport.
If you have very specific reasons to believe that a child abduction is upcoming (e.g. you found one-way tickets that your spouse booked, or your spouse transferred all his/her money to another country and quit his/her job), you could also get a court order in your country that specifically does not allow any travel with the child, that requires the deposit of any passports with the court or police, or that alarms the border and airport authorities that this child should not be allowed to travel.
10. Which countries are member states of the Hague Convention?
A current list can be found here: www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.status&cid=24