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International Child Custody and the Hague Convention

Connecticut International Child Custody Lawyers

Attorneys take strong action against Hague Convention violations

Advances in transportation and communication make marriages between people from different countries more likely than ever before. Many of these relationships last forever, but when spouses or unmarried co-parents break up (and where one spouse is a foreign national), disputes over custody can become highly complex and contentious – if the spouse who is the foreign national wants to return to their country of origin with a child or children (and jumps the gun) without a proper court order.

Needle | Cuda’s attorneys have extensive experience with Connecticut international child custody matters and provide strong advocacy for parents.

These cases often fall under the 1980 Hague Convention, which requires parents to honor existing custody orders, even if the outcome might be different under the law of the country where a parent lives or intends to relocate.

The 1980 Hague Convention (Background) – International Child Custody

Adopted by the United States in 1980, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a treaty with approximately one hundred partners or countries that participate. The Hague Convention was created to protect a child from parental abduction and/or retention across international borders without a custodial parent’s consent.

Under the Hague Convention, procedures were put in place to return a child to their habitual residence (where the child regularly or customarily lives). It also requires custody disputes be resolved in the nation of the child’s habitual residence. In order for the Hague Convention to apply, both countries (where the child was removed from and where the child was brought to) must have adopted the Convention.

How do international child custody disputes arise?

There are several situations that could turn your Connecticut child custody matter into an international dispute. If your co-parent lives outside of the United States or owns property abroad, you might face a risk that they will take your child to that nation without proper authorization. When a couple’s marriage or divorce occurs in a foreign country, there might be a claim that custody issues belong in that country’s court, even if the child is a habitual resident of the United States.

Whether you’re engaged in a divorce with international custody implications or are attempting to prevent relocation, do not hesitate to consult an attorney with experience handling these matters.   

How to file a Hague Convention petition?

In order to file a Hague Convention petition, the following facts must be true: (i) your co-parent removed the child from their habitual residence; (ii) the removal of the child was considered wrongful or in opposition of current custody orders; (iii) the child was brought to or retained in a signatory country under the Convention; and (iv) the child is under the age of 16. Additionally, it is beneficial to file a Hague petition immediately following the removal of the child or at least within 12 months (the sooner the better). Provided the above requirements are met, we can assist with each facet of the application, such as establishing the basis of your custody rights and gathering evidence that the United States is where your child habitually resides. However, please note, filing a Hague petition is often a lengthy process and it’s imperative to have an experienced attorney representing you.

How to defend against a Hague Convention petition?

You also could face a situation where you are asserting your lawful custody rights and have to defend them against a Hague Convention petition. Our attorneys will examine the details in your case to determine what defenses are available. For example, your former partner might be misrepresenting the terms of the applicable custody order or the facts regarding your child’s habitual residence. If the alleged abduction or wrongful retention began more than one year before the application, it might be rejected for that reason. A parent can also seek an exception to the standard process if they can demonstrate that approving the application could put the child at grave risk or the child is over the age of 16.

How are Hague Convention orders enforced?

If your child was wrongfully abducted from the United States or prevented from returning to this country, you can go to state or federal court to enforce your rights under the Hague Convention. These proceedings are to be expedited under the terms of the convention, perhaps even as quickly the next day pursuant to the state’s version of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Whether you use the Hague Convention, UCCJEA or both depends on the specific circumstances. There are distinctions between the two standards. While the Hague Convention does not require a custody order and only covers children up to 16 years old, the UCCJEA applies to youths under 18, but requires a custody or visitation order.

Contact a Connecticut attorney regarding your international custody matter

Needle | Cuda in Westport handles Hague Convention issues and other international custody matters for parents throughout Connecticut. To schedule a meeting regarding your case, please call 203-557-9500 or contact us online.


Related Research Links

Link to HCCH Member Details


Link to full text of The October 25, 1980 Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction


Link to 1980 Hague Convention Outline


Link to CT Law references regarding Foreign and International Law (CT Judicial Branch)


Frequently Asked Questions and Answers related to International Child Custody and the Hague Convention

The "HCCH" (the Hague Conference on International Law) is an intergovernmental organization in the area of international private law, that administers the Hague Convention, its protocols and legal instruments.

The HCCH has currently 91 Members: 90 States and 1 Regional Economic Integration Organisation.  Link to HCCH member countries.


Afghanistan Algeria Angola
Bangladesh Benin Burkina Faso
Cambodia Cameroon Chile
Congo Republic Congo Democratic Cuba
Egypt Eritrea Ethiopia
Ghana Guinea Haiti
Indonesia Iran Iraq
Ivory Coast Jordan Kenya
Kuwait Laos Lebanon
Libya Macedonia Madagascar
Malaysia Mali Mauritania
Mozambique Myanmar Burma Nepal
Niger Nigeria Pakistan
Palestine Philippines Qatar
Rwanda Saudi Arabia Senegal
Sierra Leone Singapore Sri Lanka
Sudan Syria Taiwan
Tanzania Togo Thailand
Turkmenistan UAE (United Arab Emirates) Uganda
Vietnam Yemen Zambia

The Hague Convention regulations are generally considered as the equivalent of international law, binding on all nation states independent of their acceptance of them.

The HCCH has five (5) governing bodies established by statute:

  • The Council on General Affairs and Policyis composed of all members. It operates the HCCH. Its meetings are currently held annually;
  • The Council of Diplomatic Representatives, composed of all member states, is the financial and budgetary authority of the Conference and exercises oversight its financial administration.
  • Netherlands Standing Government Committee(instituted by decree on 20 February 1897 to promote the codification of private international law);
  • Any Special Commissions convened by the HCCH;
  • Any Diplomatic Sessions convened by the HCCH;

If you believe that your child is in the process of being abducted by a parent, legal guardian or something acting on their behalf, call the US Department of State at 1-888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444

  1. Contact the designed U.S. central authority;
  2. Complete a Hague application and file it with the HCCH along with the required back-up and support documents; Note: submit 2 applications for each child (one may be a photocopy);
  3. File a petition in either state or federal court with jurisdiction over your matter;
  4. Establish a prima facie case for the return of your child;

How long does it take to serve a party under the Hague Convention?

Expect service to take four (4) to (6) months.

Expect service to take four (4) to (6) months.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act is a Uniform Act drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 1997.   This act has been adopted by 49 U.S. States and the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  It was approved in 1997 by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.

The act requires State Courts to enforce valid child-custody and visitation determinations made by sister State courts and has modernized interstate enforcement procedures and protocols.  The act helps to reconcile conflicts with state jurisdictions and establishes a procedure for enforcement.

The UCCJEA specifically provides for the enforcement of Hague Convention return orders and authorizes public officials to locate and secure return of children in Hague cases.

Under the UCCJEA, the state that has jurisdiction over a child custody case is the state where the child has lived for the past six months. If the child has not lived in any one state for the past six months, then the state that has jurisdiction is the state where the child is currently living.

Note that there are exceptions to the six (6) month rule – i.e., cases where a parent has abducted the child and cases in which sole custody has been awarded (in which case, the state that awarded custody has jurisdiction.

Link to Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act “Guide for Court Personal and Judges”

Both the Hague Convention and the Univer Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act offer procedural options to return custody of a child.

There are key differences in execution for these two remedies:

  • Court orders are NOT required under the Hague Convention to seek return of a child where they are required under the UCCJEA;
  • The Hague Convention does not specify a timeline for action where the UCCJEA required next-day enforcement;
  • The Hague Convention applies to children under sixteen (16) years old;
  • The UCCJEA apples to all minors under the age of eighteen (18).
  • The Hague Convention does not mandate the return of a child to another country for visitation, but the court may use its discretion to order visitation;
  • The UCCJEA is limited to enforcement of existing custody orders;
  • Hague cases can be brought forward in either state or federal court;
  • UCCJEA cases can only be brought in the state courts with valid jurisdiction;



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