International Child Abduction and the Hague Convention Treaty


A child custody order is a legal document that specifies the visitation and custody arrangements for a minor in a divorce case. If one parent would like to move their child to another country, they need to formally request a modification to the order and get the court’s approval before the move, otherwise it could be construed as parental child abduction or kidnapping.

Child Custody Orders and Foreign Countries

Most Texas custody orders restrict the parent designated with the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of a child to the county of the child’s residence or some other very specific geographical restriction. Rarely a Texas custody order will not restrict where the children should reside. However, if the parent leaves the country without notice, leaves under the false pretense of a vacation and does not return the child back to the other parent, or lives out of the country and does not return the child after a court-ordered period of possession of the child, there may be some legal recourse depending upon which country the other parent has the child located in. If a parent is in violation of a current custody order and removes a child internationally, depending upon the country the child was moved to, a parent may be able to hire an attorney to use the Hague Convention Treaty to have the child returned to the home country.

The Hague Convention Treaty

The Hague Convention Treaty (HCT) is an international agreement enacted by the United States and several other countries to address the problem of international parental child abduction. The purpose of the HCT is to prevent parental international child abduction and provide a legal option for the return of any child to their home country.

It’s important to note that not every foreign country abides by the HCT. Only countries that have signed the treaty will honor the contract and help you get your child back.

To enforce the HCT, you must:

  • file a custody action in the local court of where your child is located, and ask for the enforcement of the HCT;
  • prove your child is a habitual resident of your country;
  • prove the child was wrongfully removed from the country; and
  • serve the other parent with any legal documents; and
  • set a hearing to have the judge rule on returning the child to the child’s home country.

If the child has been moved to a country that has signed onto and complies with the HCT, the court of that country must act quickly to return the abducted child. The child must be returned within 6 weeks from the date the custody action was filed.

Non-HCT Countries

There are other remedies available to parents with children abducted to non-HCT countries. Seek counsel from an experienced international family law attorney to explore other legal remedies.

Contact our attorneys at (469) 646-7763 or contact us online for your legal consultation.

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