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What is the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction?

If you are a Michigan parent married to or divorced from a foreign national, you may worry about the possibility of your children’s other parent taking them overseas for a visit and refusing to return them. Such international parental abduction cases are not all that uncommon, especially when the parent has strong family ties to people in the foreign country.

In the event you and your children become the victims of this form of kidnapping, you may be able to get help via the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This Convention came about in 1980 when the Hague Conference on Private International Law drafted this treaty in an attempt to get all 98 countries that signed it, of which the United States is one, on the same page with regard to their own laws and also their commitment to recognize, respect and abide by the laws of all the other countries.

The Convention has two objectives: to return internationally abducted children to their home countries as expeditiously as possible, and to cooperate with each other in doing so.

Applying for Convention assistance

Working through your own attorney, your first step is to file an application for assistance with the Convention’s Central Authority in the United States. This application must include the following:

  • Your identifying information, that of your children’s other parent, and that of each child abducted
  • Each child’s date of birth
  • The grounds on which you are applying for assistance
  • Any and all information you possess with regard to your children’s present whereabouts
  • Any and all information you possess with regard to the person(s) whom you believe has or have your children


The more information you can provide, the easier it will be for the Convention to help you get your children back. Therefore, it is a good idea to attach verified or certified copies of the following documents to your application:

  • Your divorce decree if you are divorced from your children’s other parent
  • Your custody order
  • Your parenting plan
  • Any other court document proving that you have legal custody, whether sole or joint, of your children

If your children do not return home from their overseas vacation when scheduled and you have reason to believe that your spouse or former spouse has no intention of returning them, you should immediately contact a knowledgeable and experienced international family law attorney. (S)he can assess your situation, advise you of your rights and help you set the wheels in motion to get your children safely returned to you.