The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 is an international treaty with 101 signatories worldwide (as of May 2022).
The rationale behind the Hague Abduction Convention appears to be twofold.
Firstly, by establishing a remedy of immediate return, the child will be promptly reintegrated to their habitual environment and their ‘status quo ante’ will be restored as quickly and effectively as possible with maximum co-operation between Contracting States. This is especially so if the taking parent is the child’s non-custodial parent, usually the father; it is on this presumption that the Hague Abduction Convention, and the remedy of immediate return, was based. Allowing the court of the child’s habitual residence to decide what is in the best interests of a child was deemed to be the most effective way of protecting child welfare overall.
Secondly, respecting custody arrangements made in other Contracting States would prevent the abducting parent from ‘forum shopping’, a term used to describe a situation where one parent abducts their child in order to find a more favourable forum to adjudicate the substantive custody dispute. This in turn legalised their circumstances in the country to which they have fled, which could consequently make it difficult for the left-behind parent to secure the return of the child.
It has to be said that the Hague Abduction Convention has been an extremely successful instrument at fulfilling its objective of reuniting parents and children in Contracting States by promptly returning children back to their habitual residence.
It is worth pointing out that, if a return order is made, it is for the child; the parent is not legally obligated to return with her child.