No exception – how the Hague Convention fails women fleeing domestic violence

October 11, 2023

by Louise Godbold, for Culturico

Each year, over 2,000 parents invoke the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (HCCA) to force the return of their children to their habitual residence. This international treaty was designed to prevent noncustodial parents (at that time, predominantly fathers) from kidnapping their children and taking them to a foreign country. However, increasingly, it is mothers and primary caregivers who are fleeing with their children, many in response to domestic violence.

Currently, there is no provision for domestic violence under the terms of the HCCA, forcing mothers to make the heartbreaking decision of whether to return to their abuser or to relinquish custody of their children to a violent partner. You fell in love abroad, relocated to your partner’s country, and had children together. Then your partner turns violent and controlling. Your partner’s family turn their backs and the country you live in provides no help. What would you do? Most people would say “Take the children and run!”

However, what many parents in this situation do not realize is that the moment they transport their children over international borders, they become fugitives, pursued by law enforcement and the legal apparatus of both their home country and the country they have fled.

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