How does the Hague Convention work in family law?

Hague Convention

By Ezra Sarajinsky

· Read time: 4 minutes

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty that covers issues such as international child access and abduction. It aims to ensure the safety of all children internationally. 

More than 100 countries in the world are Hague Convention Countries, including Australia and all the EU member states.

This means that the Convention is lawfully binding upon these countries and that they must have established procedures in place to administer the processes covered by the Hague Convention. 

For example, the requirement for periodic reporting allows for member countries to be assessed with regards to their obligations under the Convention.

The report categorises countries as either fully ‘non-compliant’, ‘not fully compliant’, ‘of concern’, ‘demonstrating patterns of noncompliance’, or ‘having enforcement problems’. 

This may be important for parents to note, particularly if they are choosing a place to travel to or have worries about their ex partner taking their child overseas.

For example, if a child is taken by a parent overseas to a Hague Convention country, you will be able to use processes under the Hague Convention to ensure that your child gets back home safely. 

How can the Hague Convention protect my child? 

The Hague Convention provides a lawful process by which parents can seek to ensure that their child is returned home if they have been abducted overseas. It also helps parents get in contact with children that they have overseas. 

The Australian Central Authority in the Attorney General’s Department has the role of administering many aspects of the Hague Convention.

Should you need to lodge an application to have your child returned to their home country, or have any questions regarding the Hague Convention, you should endeavor to contact the Australian Central Authority. 

What should I do if my child has been abducted from Australia? 

There are several options you can choose if you fear for your child’s safety. These include: 

Reporting the matter to police

Depending on the urgency of the situation, you may feel it is best to go to the police and give them a statement. Telling them of your circumstances will mean that the police are more readily available to help you and your family. 

The Family Law Watchlist

You can also add your child’s name to the Family Law Watchlist. The Family Law Watchlist allows the Australian Federal Police to monitor the movement of your child’s travels and allows them to prohibit them from traveling internationally. This can be especially effective if you fear that your partner may take your child overseas without your permission or without you knowing. 

There are also limits you can place on which countries your child can travel to. For example, limiting your child’s travel to only Hague Convention countries can act as a precautionary measure in case they are abducted internationally. 

To get your child’s name on the Watchlist, you need a court order. This court order can either specify a conditional prohibition on travel or a total one. 

Contact the Australian Central Authority

The Australian Central Authority should be able to help you if your child has been abducted to a Hague Convention country. 

If the country your child has been taken to is not a member of the Hague Convention, contact the Consular Branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 

Australia also has bilateral treaty agreements with Egypt and Lebanon regarding international child abduction. There are also application forms to fill out if you believe that your child has been wrongly detained in these countries.  

Can I take preventative measures to stop my child from being abducted overseas? 

Aside from telling the police and placing your child on the Family Law Watchlist, you can also make sure that you keep track of your child’s official documents, such as their passport. 

The law requires that both parents sign a child’s passport. Hence, one of the easiest ways to ensure that your child does not travel overseas is by refusing to sign their passport. You can also contact the Australian Passport Office and let them know that you have not consented to your child’s travel. 

If you have any queries regarding the Hague Convention and how it could help your family, please feel free to reach out to us via the contact form.

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