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Resolving international child abduction isn’t a one-person battle

Anytime a contentious relationship ends, it may not be the end of the problems -- especially when there are children involved. In situations where the parents originate from different countries, there is always the unfortunate potential that one parent might abduct a child and return to his or her home country.

If you are the custodial parent of the abducted child, you will likely do whatever you can to secure the safe return of your child. Whether you reside in Ontario and your child was abducted out of Canada, or you are a resident of another country and the other parent brought your child to Canada, navigating the legal procedures to get your child back in your care can be extremely daunting and complicated.

What are your options?

Regardless of the animosity between parents, both usually want what is best for the child. Negotiations might change the mind of the parent who removed your child from your care. However, while you pursue that avenue, you could ask your lawyer to initiate an application under the Hague Convention.

If the other parent took your child to a country that formally recognizes the Hague Convention, or your child was abducted away to Canada from a country, such as Germany, that legally abides by this international treaty, a law firm experienced with the legalities of each country and that is fluent in the languages spoken in each country could prove invaluable to your cause.

What is the Hague Convention?

The Hague Convention is an international treaty that provides a formal procedure aimed at reuniting abducted children with their parents in participating countries. The court will consider factors such as the intentions of the parents, the length of time the child has resided in the country of habitual residence, and the child’s bond with that country. You must meet the following conditions to apply for help under the Hague Convention:

  • Both Canada and the other country involved must have recognized the Hague Convention before your child’s abduction occurred.
  • Your abducted child is not 16 years or older.
  • Your child’s usual place of residence before the abduction was in Canada, or your child consistently resided in a country that recognizes the Hague Convention before his or her abduction to Canada.
  • The child was in your legal custody, and you had access rights when the abduction took place.

Potential reasons for the refusal of your application

There are several circumstances in which the court might refuse to assist with the returning of your child. If evidence shows that you willingly allowed the other parent to take your child with him or her, or if more than a year has passed since your child’s abduction, exceptions to the Hague Convention could apply.

Also, if you didn’t have custody or access rights when the abduction took place, or if the court deems that your child would be at risk of physical or psychological harm upon his or her return, a refusal of your application is definitely possible. Finally, a court has the right to refuse your application if your child doesn’t wish to return to you and he or she is deemed as being mature enough to make this decision.

Where to turn for support

During this trying time, acquiring legal counsel who is fully familiar with all of the legal intricacies involved with international abduction and the Hague Convention can help to ease some of your stress and worries. Even in cases where one (or some) of the above conditions exist and the court denies your application, there are most likely still legal options available to you. An experienced lawyer can carefully examine the circumstances of your specific case to determine the best manner of proceeding toward reuniting you with your child.

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