Parental Child Abduction to France or to the United States – the Important Hague Convention

The Hague Convention of October 25, 1980, on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

Jonathon Wise Polier
Avocat aux Barreaux de Paris et de New York
Attorney-at-Law (Paris & New York)

The France and the United States have been treaty partners under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention) since July 1, 1988.

In fact, unlike certain other OECD countries, both the French  Public Prosecutor’ office and the French Family Tribunals (Courts) are committed to the proper and fair application of the Hague Convention when one parent wrongfully removes a child from a country such as United States,  Canada or Japan and takes the child to France against the will of the other parent.  

Child Abduction to the United States

If such a parental child abduction to the United  States occurs, it is very important that parent residing outside the United States commence a proceeding under the Hague Convention seeking a French judicial order requiring the return of the child.  Time for commencing the proceedings is essential since, under Article 12 of the Hague Convention, the burden of proof of the aggrieved parent is more favorable if the proceeding is promptly instituted.

Recently Paris law firm was faced with the  following situation:

A French-American couple and their three children resided near Paris. Two years earlier he husband had ago been transferred from the US affiliate to Paris and the wife and children has followed.

With the father’s approval, the wife had taken the children for a month to Virginia to see the children’s American grandparents. Then, she announced that she and the children has decided to stay in the US.

The distraught father contacted my firm. Over the ensuing four weeks the following actions were taken:

  1. My firm filed in France an action whereby the father sought custody of the children and their return to France.

  2. With my firm’s assistance, the father filed in French and English with the French Ministry of Justice a Hague Convention his demand that the children be returned to France, their permanent domicile.

  3. The demand was forwarded by the French Ministry of Justice to the US State Department.

  4. My firm identified Hague Convention knowledgeable local counsel in Virginia and the father retained such local counsel.

  5. The father and my firm provided Virginia local counsel with supporting documents in both French and English, including a copy of the Hague Convention filing.

  6. Local counsel prepared a summons and complaint seeking a Virginia Family Court order that the children be returned to France.

  7. The local counsel then sought and obtained an emergency hearing date before the Family Court and the hearing date was set for 10 days later.

  8. The wife was served with a copy of local counsel’s summons and complaint, including the supporting documents.

  9. The wife retained Virginia local counsel but refused to return the children to France.

  10. At the conclusion of the Family Court emergency hearing the Judge entered and order that the children be returned to France.

  11. Only 10 days later the mother returned the children to France.

Naturally, such quick and excellent results may not be achieved in all matters involving the Hague Convention, since the factual situations will vary and impact the outcome.

Child Abduction to France

If such a parental child abduction occurs, it is very important that parent residing outside France commence a proceeding under the Hague Convention seeking a French judicial order requiring the return of the child.  Time for commencing the proceedings is essential since, under Article 12 of the Hague Convention, the burden of proof of the aggrieved parent is more favorable if the proceeding is promptly instituted.

The  United States Embassy in Paris has previously stated:

In a Hague Abduction Convention case, the French Central Authority will assign a [French] Public Prosecutor to present the case to the court, and it is not mandatory for a petitioner to retain a private attorney.  The Public Prosecutor, however, does not represent the left-behind parent who submitted the Hague Abduction Convention application; the Prosecutor represents the French Republic and submits the request for return on behalf of the French Central Authority.  The parent or legal guardian who has submitted the application may hire a private attorney in France to join the Prosecutor in presenting the Hague Abduction Convention case….  A privately hired attorney should contact the French Central Authority as soon as possible after the Hague Abduction Convention application has been filed with the French Central Authority.

Helpful forms

US Department of State form to use when seeking the return of the child to the United States :
http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/80021.pdf

Form to use when seeking the return of the child to France
http://www.justice.gouv.fr/art_pix/form_dde_retour.pdf

The following site in French of the French Ministry of Justice is helpful
http://www.justice.gouv.fr/justice-civile-11861/enlevement-parental-12063/en-pratique-21112.html#1

Instructions of French Ministry of Justice

1. If you wish to demand the return of your child to France :

Two copies in French using the following form in French, and another form in the language of the country where your child is located.

1. Vous demandez le retour de votre enfant en France :

Deux exemplaires doivent être adressés : un rédigé en langue française, l’autre dans la langue du pays dans lequel l’enfant se trouve (formulaire en anglais, en espagnol, en allemand, en portugais, en italien, en polonais ou en roumain).

Practical thoughts

All too often, the assigned French Public Prosecutor is not as proactive as one might hope and the involvement of a French attorney to push case along can be essential.  In addition, if the assigned Public Prosecutor concludes that he/she does not have all the necessary documents, by a phone call to the  assigned Public Prosecutor, the French attorney can identify the need and speak with the aggrieved parent and or the parents home country attorney so that the missing documents can be furnished.

A discussion of certain typical parental child abduction scenarios is available (click here).

The full text of the Hague Convention can be consulted (click here).

In fact, unlike certain other OECD countries (such as Japan), both the French  Public Prosecutor’ office and the French Family Tribunals (Courts) are committed to the proper and fair application of the Hague Convention when one parent wrongfully removes a child from a country such as United States or Canada and takes the child to France against the will of the other parent.  

If such a parental child abduction occurs, it is very important that parent residing outside France commence a proceeding under the Hague Convention seeking a French judicial order requiring the return of the child.  Time for commencing the proceedings is essential since, under Article 12 of the Hague Convention, the burden of proof of the aggrieved parent is more favorable if the proceeding is promptly instituted.

A discussion of certain typical parental child abduction scenarios is available (click here).

The full text of the Hague Convention can be consulted (click here).