International Parental Child Abduction and the Problem with the Hague Convention

Elijah Restoring the Widow's Son

On June 6, 2004, David Goldman watched as his wife and four-year old son, Sean boarded an airplane to visit friends and family in his wife’s native Brazil. After this, David Goldman was not allowed to see his son again until December, 2009. Thus began a protracted parental rights dispute.  International parental rights disputes are an ongoing problem for the international community.  So much so that in 1979 the Hague Conference convened to discuss the issue; from that meeting was born the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which was adopted on October 25, 1980 by a unanimous vote of the twenty-three member countries.  

On July 1, 1988, the treaty entered into force for the United States via implementing legislation enacted on April 29, 1988. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a jurisdictional treaty intended to guarantee that all signatory nations respect each other’s custody laws; its purpose is to prescribe the jurisdiction in which the custody matter will be heard. Currently, they are seventy-nine U.S. Hague Convention treaty partners; Brazil became a partner on December 1, 2003. As treaty partners, both the United States and Brazil are obligated to comply with the Convention where applicable and return the child to the appropriate jurisdiction for adjudication of the custody matter. 

However, contravention of the Hague Convention by signatory countries happens more often than one would think. As it stands today, there are no enforcement remedies in place to guarantee compliance by signatory nations. This seemingly minor point of international law demands a high price from families like the Goldmans. For more on the David Goldman case, see International Custody Battles: The Not So Curious Case of David Goldman.

If you’re interested in learning more about international parental child abduction and the Hague Convention, see:

1.     Research Guides

Treaty Research: An Introduction to Sources

ASILGuide to Electronic Resources for International Law

2.     Books

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction: The Need for Mechanisms to Address Noncompliance

International Child Law

International Family Law Desk Book

International Child Abduction: The Inadequacies of the Law

The Hague Abduction Convention: Practical Issues and Procedures for Family Lawyers

3.     Law Reviews

It Can Be Done: On Japan Becoming a Successful Signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

To Comply or Not Comply? Brazil’s Relationship with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abductions

Chafin v. Chafin: Protecting a U.S. Parent’s Power to Litigate International Abductions

4.     News/Blogs

Supreme Court Sides with Parent Who Fled with Child in International Custody Disputes

Two Dads, Two Lost Boys and the International Search for Mother Who Vanished with Them

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