International child abductions

More and more people are marrying foreigners and thereby creating international families.

Free movement within the EU often means that one or more family members get work in another country and want to move.

Unfortunately, this trend has resulted in many couples separating and unable to agree on the place of residence of their joint children.

In the worst cases, this can result in one of the parents traveling with the child out of the country without the other parent’s consent.

In this article, I try to give an overview of the rules that apply if one of the parents takes the child abroad.

1. When is it child abduction?

One speaks of child abduction when a minor with permanent residence in one country is taken to another country without the consent of the holder of parental authority.

It is also child abduction when a minor is detained without the consent of the holder of parental authority in a country which is not the country where the child has his usual place of residence.

The nationality of the minor and the parents is irrelevant: the decisive factor is only the child’s place of residence at the time of the abduction.

2. Which rules apply to child abduction?

In order to protect minors from abduction, a convention has been adopted, the Hague Convention of 25.10.1980. This convention can be used between the countries that have signed the convention. To date, 92 countries have acceded to the convention. Denmark acceded to the convention by Act 1990-11-27 No. 792

3. What are the conditions for applying the Hague Convention?

a. The state where the child had his residence before the abduction, and the country where the child has been taken as a result of the abduction, must both have signed the Hague Convention.

b. The child must be under 16 years of age.

c. The person requesting the return of the child must be the holder of parental authority according to the rules applicable in the country where the child had his or her habitual residence before the abduction.

4. What should you do if you suspect that a minor is in danger of being taken to another country?

a. Avoid giving consent to the minor being issued with a passport.

b. If the child already has a passport, then request the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the child should not have the right to leave the country.

c. If the child is going on holiday with one of the parents, make sure to draw up a document that both parents sign in front of a notary or a lawyer, after which the parent traveling with the child undertakes to travel back on a specific date.

d. If the parents are to be separated or divorced, and the case is filed, the child cannot leave the country without the consent of the other.

e. If the separation or divorce case has already been settled and there is joint custody, both parents must give their consent for the child to leave the country.

f. If, on the other hand, parental authority is no longer shared, the parent who has sole parental authority over the child can leave the country without the other’s consent.

5. When must one apply for the return of the child, cf. Hague Convention of 1980?

The Convention does not set a deadline after abduction within which a request for the child’s return must be made.

However, the time factor is certainly not without importance. If the request is made later than one year after the abduction, the judge in the country to which the child has been abducted can refuse return if he considers that the child has adjusted to his new environment.

It is recommended to begin the return procedure IMMEDIATELY after establishing that the child has been taken out of the country or is detained abroad.

6. Which competent authority should you contact if you believe that a child has been abducted abroad?

If you want a child returned from a country that has signed the Hague Convention, you must contact the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Interior, Holmens Kanal 22, 1060 København K.

7. Who is the competent authority if a child is resettled in Denmark?

If a child has been abducted to Denmark or is detained in Denmark after contact, the foreign parent can get help to get the child returned.

All convention countries have a central authority that receives and mediates inquiries from parents who want their child returned.

You can apply to the central authority in the country where the child resides to have the child returned from Denmark. The central authority in the child’s country of residence sends a request for return to the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Interior. After receipt, the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Interior forwards the request to the family court in the place in Denmark where the child resides.

It is the family court that must then assess whether it is a case of child abduction. The ministry is solely responsible for the contact between family law in Denmark and the central authority in the other convention country.

Denmark provides free legal aid to parents who wish to have their child returned. You can choose a lawyer yourself. If you fail to do so, the family court will appoint a lawyer for you. In both cases, the state pays the attorney’s fees.

Since the time factor in child abduction cases is crucial, it is recommended to contact a lawyer IMMEDIATELY after you suspect that an abduction has occurred.