International child abduction: defenses to a petition to return

It is nothing short of terrifying to discover that your child has been taken out of the country by his or her other parent in violation of a court-ordered custody arrangement. Yet, given the complexities of the situation, it can be difficult to figure out where to even start seeking the child's return. As we discussed in a previous post, the Hague Convention is the best tool to seek the return of a child who has been subjected to international abduction, but the return is not automatic.

This is why those who are hoping to utilize the Hague Convention need to be prepared to counter one or more of a number of defenses. One of the more common defenses is that returning the child would place him or her at risk of physical or psychological harm. Even showing that returning the child would put him or her in an intolerable situation could be enough for a court to deny a child's return.

Yet, the defenses don't stop there. If the child exhibits a heightened sense of majority, then a return may be denied if the child does not wish to be returned. Also, time is of the essence in these cases. That is because a return request can be denied if the child has resided outside of the country for more than a year and is well settled in his or her new environment. In some instances a custodial parent says or does something that signifies consent or acquiescence to taking and keeping the child out of the country, which, again, may cause a court to refuse to return a child.

International child abduction cases are highly complicated matters, especially given the fact that the courts of the various Hague Convention countries may take different approaches to the law. Therefore, if your child has been abducted, then you need to do everything you can to ensure you have a strong legal ally on your side to increase your chances of successfully seeking your child's return.

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