Interamerican University of Puerto Rico
Prof. Andrés Córdova Phelps
From: Hernan Marrero
December 13, 2005
Since the 1970s, the State Department estimates that it has been contacted for help in about 11,000 international child abductions where a parent was involved. The State Department estimates an average of 400 to 500 new international cases per year. A recent study by the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law shows that in 60 percent of international abduction cases, the children are never returned even though their whereabouts are known. To resolve custody disputes and jurisdictional involving different countries caused by the international abduction of children, the international law adopted in October 25, 1980 the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Convention provides common rules and procedures to determine child custody. The preamble of the Convention states that its primary purpose is "Desiring to protect children internationally from harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention and to establish procedures to ensure their prompt return to the State of their habitual residence as well as to secure protection for rights of access." So it can be said that the primary purposes of the Convention are to deter persons from committing international abductions, and to provide a prompt remedy for the return of abducted children. Before the adoption of the Convention, the only practical solution for some parents was to self help by obtaining the child by force. The primary object of the Convention as stated in the Article 1, is "(a) to secure the prompt return of the children wrongfully removed or retained in any Contracting State; and (b) to ensure that rights of custody and of access under the law of one Contracting State are effectively respected in the other Contracting State." The purpose of the Convention, then, is to preserve the status quo by returning the child to the country of "habitual residence" and allowing the judicial authorities in that country to decide the merits of the custody dispute under its own law without either party gaining and advantage by removing the child to another country to utilize a more favorable judicial system. Thus the cornerstone of the convention is the mandate return of the child to his or her circumstances prior to the abduction if one parent removal of the child from or retention in a Contracting State has violated the custody rights of the other, and is, therefore "wrongful." The Convention has two aspects, returning the children that have been wrongfully removed or withheld and ensuring the parents the right of foreign parents, so in every action brought for the return of a child under the terms of the Convention; the most important question is whether there has been a wrongful removal or retention. In its article 3 the Convention states that there a two different scenarios in which the removal or retention of a child is going to be considered wrongful, there are (1) in a breach of the rights of custody attributed to a person, an institution or any other body, either jointly or alone, under the law of the State in which the child was habitual resident immediately before the removal or retention, and (2) at the time of removal or retention the rights of custody were actually exercised or would have been so exercise but for the removal or retention. This Convention only applies to the children under the age of 16 years. Right of custody' is determined in the Convention in its article 5 as to include the "rights relating to the care of the person of the child
" and more importantly "the right to determine the child's place of residence." The Custody rights must be determined by the law of the country of habitual residence, that it's why the courts must first decide which country constitutes the...
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