The most common type of abduction is by one of the parents. International abductions usually occur when one parent has a background or upbringing in another country. When the marriage splits up it is not uncommon for one of the parents to want to return to their home country where their family, friends and support system are located. On some occasions that parent might bring the children out of the country. The other type of common abduction is in a custody dispute. When one of the parents “loses” in court, they sometimes feel that they can still “win” by abducting the children out of the country. In any of these abduction situations, the remaining parent is left trying to obtain the return of the children, or in some cases, trying to have any relationship with the children whatsoever.


How an international abduction case is handled depends entirely on whether the country to which the child is abducted is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.


When a child is taken to any country that has not signed the Hague Convention, the remaining parent must pursue their case in the courts of the country to which the child has been taken. This can be very expensive, and is often one of the motivations for removing the child in the first instance. Competent counsel should be obtained in the other country immediately. Often times the removing parent will file a custody action in the other country in an attempt to legitimize the abduction. If the remaining parents interests are not represented adequately, the other country might enter custody orders by default.

Depending upon the country, there is some chance that they will order the return of the child to the country from which they were taken. Often, however, the other country’s courts will take jurisdiction of the case even though the children have no connection to that country. The remaining parents only recourse is to fight the custody battle in the other country.


The following countries have signed the Hague Convention and are bound by its terms as of January, 2007:

Hague Convention Country or Territory Date of Entry
Andorra 2017/01/01
Argentina 1991/06/01
Armenia 2018/03/01
Australia 1988/01/01
Austria 1988/10/01
Bahamas, The 1994/01/01
Belgium 1999/05/01
Belize 1989/11/01
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1991/12/01
Brazil 2003/12/01
Bulgaria 2005/01/01
Burkina Faso 1992/11/01
Canada 1988/07/01
Chile 1994/07/01
China (Hong Kong & Macau only)
Hong Kong
Columbia 1996/06/01
Costa Rica 2008/01/01
Croatia 1991/12/01
Cyprus 1995/03/01
Czech Republic 1998/03/01
Denmark 1991/07/01
Dominican Republic 2007/06/01
Ecuador 1992/04/01
El Salvador 2007/06/01
Estonia 2007/05/01
Fiji 2017/05/01
Finland 1994/08/01
France 1988/07/01
Germany 1990/12/01
Greece 1993/06/01
Guatemala 2008/01/01
Honduras 1994/06/01
Hungary 1988/07/01
Iceland 1996/12/01
Ireland 1991/10/01
Israel 1991/12/01
Italy 1995/05/01
Jamaica 2019/04/01
Japan 2014/04/01
Latvia 2007/05/01
Lithuania 2007/05/01
Luxembourg 1998/07/01
Macedonia, Republic of 1991/12/01
Malta 2003/02/01
Mauritius 1993/10/01
Mexico 1991/10/01
Monaco 1993/06/01
Montenegro 1991/12/01
Morocco 2012/12/01
Netherlands 1990/09/01
New Zealand 1991/10/01
Norway 1989/04/01
Panama 1994/06/01
Paraguay 2008/01/01
Peru 2007/06/01
Poland 1992/11/01
Portugal 1988/07/01
Korea, Republic of 2013/11/01
Romania 1993/06/01
Saint Kitts and Nevis 1995/06/01
San Marino 2008/01/01
Serbia 1991/12/01
Singapore 2012/05/01
Slovakia 2001/02/01
Slovenia 1995/04/01
South Africa 1997/11/01
Spain 1988/07/01
Sri Lanka 2008/01/01
Sweden 1989/06/01
Switzerland 1988/07/01
Thailand 2016/04/01
Trinidad and Tobago 2013/08/01
Turkey 2000/08/01
Ukraine 2007/09/01
United Kingdom
Cayman Islands
Falkland Islands
Isle of Man
Uruguay 2004/09/01
Venezuela 1997/01/01
Zimbabwe 1995/08/01

Additional countries are being added all of the time. If you do not see the country on this list, you need to call your county’s State Department to see if the country you are interested in has signed the treaty.

In the United States, the State Department can be reached at:
Office of Children’s Issues
CA/OCS/CI, Room 4811
Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818

The U.S. State Department’s current listing of countries can be found at: List of Hague Convention Signatory Countries.

To actually file an application to have the U.S. Central Authority assist in the return of the child, you must contact
The National Center for Missing Children
1-800-THE LOST (1-800-843-5678).

If the child has been taken from the U.S. to another country, the Central Authority will assist you in processing the papers and the hiring of an attorney. Some countries provide free or low cost attorneys. In cases where children are abducted to the U.S., NO FREE ATTORNEYS ARE PROVIDED. You are solely responsible for obtaining and paying your own attorney in the United States.


The Hague Convention applies to parents who were exercising their custody rights at the time of the abduction, where the child in question is below the age of 16 and was habitually residing in the country from which he was taken. The Hague Convention provides for assistance where the remaining parent has lost his visitation rights, but does not require the return of the child. Custody rights need not be in the form of a court order for the Hague Convention to apply.

Where all of the following conditions are met, the Hague Convention mandates the return of the child to the country where the child was taken from, if APPLICATION IS MADE WITHIN ONE YEAR. If application is not made within one year, the court in the country where the child is removed has discretion whether or not to return the child. If application is made within one year, the court must return the child, unless one of several narrow exceptions apply. Among these are that the child would be at “grave risk” if returned to its home country.

The Hague Convention specifically provides that the court is not to decide custody, but is simply to return the child to its home country, where any custody issues can be taken up there.

On the whole, the Hague Convention has worked very well and has been an extremely positive step in deterring abductions and promptly returning children when they are abducted. Statistically, the return rate has been very high. As in any other case, however, each case is different, and no guarantees of a return can be made. To assure your best chance that the Hague Convention will be followed as it was intended, it is best to obtain a competent attorney as soon as possible.