The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction of 1980 (the Convention) is one of a large number of conventions signed in the Hague but it stands out as possibly the most well-known – why? Probably because it deals with the emotional and sometimes highly publicised issue of child abduction.
The Convention’s aim is to have children swiftly returned to their country of habitual residence when someone – usually a parent – takes them from, or prevents them from returning to, that country in breach of the other parent’s rights.
When the Convention was first conceived, it was expected that it would mainly prevent fathers from turning up at school gates, bundling their children into fast cars and taking them off in clouds of dust. But the last four decades have shown that the reality is very different: most abductions involve no physical violence or spiriting-away of children in the middle of the night. Instead, the typical abductor is the mother and abduction occurs when – perhaps after a stay with the children in her original home country – she can’t bear to return them to the country where they were being brought up, her relationship with the children’s father having ended.