Colorado has strict laws regarding child abduction, including abduction during custody and visitation disputes. Law enforcement can become involved and criminal penalties may be placed on a perpetrator.
When child abduction occurs on an international level, a different set of rules apply. Separate governments, legal jurisdictions and different laws may arise. A custody order signed in the US may not be honored by another country.
Many countries, including the US, have become a party to The Hague Abduction Convention treaty. This treaty attempts to provide a uniform method of resolving such disputes. The main focus of the Convention is that the laws of the country of the child’s habitual residence should apply.
There are several provisions of the treaty that are important for anyone in a situation. First, both countries must be a signatory to the treaty. Most countries have signed the treaty. Second, each country must have a ‘Central Authority” to act as a contact office for abduction cases. This office must have proper application forms available for those in need. Third, no formal custody order is necessary if the parent can prove the habitual residence of the child. These situations apply whether the child was wrongfully removed or wrongfully retained.
There are defenses to the habitual residence rule. If the return of the child presents a grave danger to the child, the application may be denied. If the parent seeking return has previously agreed to the residence change, or has failed to apply within one year, the application may be denied.
The stress of having a child abducted is overwhelming to both the parent and the child. A family law attorney with experience in The Hague Convention might be the best advocate for the parent seeking return of their child. The attorney may first determine if the treaty applies to the situation and then begin the process of filing the proper application.