May 16, 2023 | Custody and Parenting

The Hague Convention

What is international child abduction?

International child abduction is a harsh global reality that can cause a lot of fear, stress, and uncertainty for the parents and the children involved. An international abduction takes place when the non-custodial parent kidnaps a child and flees out of the country with them. The issue that arises from this is that since the child is taken out of the country, the Canadian rules no longer apply. This becomes problematic when the country the child is taken to does not have any measures to protect abducted children. This can result in it being very challenging to have your child return.

What laws regulate international abductions?

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (HC) adopted in 1983 is a multilateral international treaty that regulates the child’s return in the case of abduction. The convention only applies to the 93 countries that have signed the treaty and when a child under the age of 16 is abducted.

According to the first article of the convention, the goals are:

  • to secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to or retained in any Contracting State;
  • to ensure that rights of custody and of access under the law of one Contracting State are effectively respected in the other Contracting States.

The convention orders a mandatory return of the child in certain circumstances. If less than one year has passed from the abduction to the date proceedings were issued or if proceedings started a year or more from the date of abduction, a child can be ordered to return to its originating country under the convention.

The parent who wishes to have their child returned must have custody rights over the child before the abduction. An application form for return must be filed with a central authority who is responsible for managing cases under the convention. In Canada, each province has its own central authority. Once an application is filed, the central authority gets in contact with the central authority in the country where the child was kidnapped to, and court proceedings begin there.

A judge will not order a child to be returned to their original country under the Hague convention if they deems that the child is under grave risk of receiving psychological or physical harm upon its return or if the child itself objects to its return and is mature enough to make this decision. If the foreign court decides that the child should not be returned to its country of origin the parent can always appeal the decision.

If you wish to see if the Hague convention applies to you and your child, a list of the countries who have signed the treaty can be found at the following:

Learn more at: