Explanatory Documentation prepared for Commonwealth Jurisdictions

2310-1857 (online)
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This series of ‘accession kits’ have been prepared by the Commonwealth Secretariat to assist governments in acceding to selected international conventions. The titles cover both private and public international law.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Revised 1990

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David McLean
01 Feb 1990
9781848596047 (PDF)
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  • Preface

    When Commonwealth Law Ministers met in Barbados in 1980 they expressed their profound concern that legal systems were increasingly unable to safeguard adequately the welfare of children. They observed a trend whereby increasingly parties to dispute over custody had been abducting their children and taking them to foreign jurisdictions, frequently in defiance of court orders, to circumvent or pre-empt the operation of the law. By so doing they deprived the courts of exercising their role in assuring the best interests of the child.

  • The Need for a Convention

    On 25 October 1980 a Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was signed at The Hague. The English text of the Convention is reproduced in Appendix A, below. The Convention was drawn up under the auspices of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the specialist inter-governmental agency working in that field and in which the Commonwealth Secretariat enjoys Observer status; the inclusion of the subject of international child abduction in the agenda of the Hague Conference was largely the result of an initiative by the Canadian Government.

  • The Substantive Principles of the Convention

    The central tenet of the Hague Convention is that children should be returned to their State of habitual residence if they have been wrongfully removed therefrom. It is not a Convention for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of foreign custody orders. It seeks to protect children by safeguarding the relationships which they actually have with those exercising care over them.

  • Administrative Arrangements and Procedure Under the Convention

    The Preamble to the Convention makes explicit the twin premises upon which the Convention is based: first, that the interests of children are of paramount importance in matters relating to their custody and, second, that, in cases of international abduction, these interests are best served by the establishment of procedures ensuring their prompt return to the place where they were habitually resident prior to their removal.

  • Accession and Implementation

    Article 38 provides that the instrument of accession to the Convention shall be deposited with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and that the Convention shall enter into force in the acceding State on the first day of the third calendar month after such deposit. But the accession affects relations only between the acceding State and such Contracting States as accept the accession. This acceptance is made by declaration in the same manner as the accession.

  • Appendices
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