The Hague Convention is a piece of legislation entered into by a number of countries (known as ‘contracting states’) to protect children internationally from wrongful removal or retention and to establish procedures to ensure their safe return to their country of habitual residence.
There are a number of principles behind the Hague Convention:
- Upon attaining the age of 16 years old, the Hague Convention no longer applies
- The subject child must be habitually residence in the state to which a return is sought
- The person seeking the return of the child (in most cases the parent) must have rights of custody over the child in question
- Provided the proceedings are within 12 months of the wrongful removal or retention away from the country of habitual residence, the court of the country which the child has been taken away shall order that the child is returned ‘forthwith’ unless there are valid defences otherwise.
Defences under the Hague Convention are limited in scope and set out under Articles 12 and 13. In short, the court may not order the return of the child to the country where he is habitually resident if:
- the left behind parent consented to the removal or acquiesced to the child remaining in the state which proceedings are taking place; or
- the child objects to the return and has reached an age and degree of maturity at which it would be appropriate to take into account his view
The list of countries that have signed the Hague Convention changes frequently. Following Brexit, the law on the wrong removal of children internationally is also likely to see some considerable changes.
If you would like further advice on regarding the removal of children either internally (within England and Wales) or externally (overseas), it is crucial that you speak to an experienced solicitor given the complexity of the law in this area. Contact us on 01234 889777 to speak to a specialist lawyer in Bedford and Northampton.