Tag Archives: Parent

HAGUE CONVENTION: Home State of Infants

The central tenant of the Hague Convention is the idea of the home state of the child. The home state is where the substantive custody determination should take place. The home state’s laws are used to decide whether the left-behind parent has a “right of custody,” which triggers the Convention, or merely a “right of access,” which does not. Retuning the child to his or her rightful home state is the goal of the Convention. But how do you determine the home state for a baby or an infant?

Some courts in the US focus on what was the parents’ last shared intention to determine habitual residence. These Courts include the First, Second, Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits. In these courts, determining an infant’s home state requires no different analysis than for an older child.

Other courts look to more objective standards, like whether the child has enrolled in a new school, made friends in the new country, joined extracurricular activities in the home country, etc. For these courts, the determination of the home state of an infant is more difficult. In many cases, the courts in these circuits have adopted the parent intent test for very young children (typically, under 18 months), while focusing more on the child for children older than 18 months. See Delvoye v. Leem 329 F.3d 330 (3d Cir. 2003); See Whitting v. Krassner, 391 F.3d 540 (3d Cir. 2004). However, this is not a hard and fast rule, as courts have also used a blended approach, combining both the parental intent approach and the child-based approach for children of different ages. See In re Application of Adan, 437 F.3d 381 (3d Cir. 2006); See Kijowska v. Haines, 463 F.3d 583 (7th Cir. 2006).

In courts that do not strictly follow the parental-intent approach, determining the home state of an infant is much more difficult, and the cases have not produced a clear answer as to how to make this determination.

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Hague Convention is Jurisdictional Treaty

The Hague Convention is unique in that it is almost purely about jurisdiction. The drafters designed it “to restore the status quo prior to any wrongful removal or retention and to deter parents from engaging in international forum shopping.” Baxter v. Baxter, 423 F.3d 363, (3d Cir. 2005). The treaty does not set parameters for making a substantive, custody decision; instead, it outlines the procedures to decide where the case should be heard. In these cases, then, it determines under which nation’s laws, procedures, and judges will decide the ultimate outcome of the case.

Article 19 explicitly says, “A decision made under this Convention concerning the return of the child shall not be taken to be a determination on the merits of any custody issue.” Instead, the Convention focuses on whether or not a child “should be returned to a country for custody proceedings and not what the outcome of those proceedings should be.” Holder v. Holder, 392 F.3d 1009, 1013 (9th Cir. 2004).

Why did the drafters of the Convention focus on jurisdiction? In the text of the Convention itself, it is made expressly clear that one of the primary goals of the Convention is “to secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to or retained in any Contracting State.” Holder v. Holder, 392 F.3d 1009, 1013 (9th Cir. 2004) (Citing Convention, art. 1, 19 I.L.M. at 1501). One of the major reasons to return the child is to ensure that parents do not move the child to a different country in order to gain some sort of tactical advantage by picking and choosing which legal system to litigate the case. This underlying concern for forum shopping is why the Convention focuses on jurisdiction.

Bottom Line:  The Hague Convention treaty is not meant to resolve substantive custody issues.  It is used to determine where the custody dispute will take place.

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HAGUE CONVENTION: International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance

On January 1, 2013, the Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance came into effect with the ratifications of Albania, Bosnia-HerzegovinaNorway, and later Ukraine. Both the United States and the European Union have both signed the convention and are currently in the process of ratifying it. In June 2013, the Convention passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and is currently under review by the Senate’s Committee on Finance.

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WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

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Establishes a Central Authority for each member.

Applications for child support will be processed through a Central Authority established by each country. The duties of a Central Authority will usually carried out through a country’s child support agencies. Although these Authorities have several roles, their primary function will be to transmit and receive applications and to facilitate the child support process.
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Keeps costs down for applicants.

Prior to the Convention, costs of the process may have deterred obiligees from pursuing child support. The Convention mandates that each country provide free legal assistance for child support obligations in terms of the application process. It will be interesting to see how both state and federal legislatures budget for these new expenses here in the United States.
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Determines whose laws apply.

The Convention applies the law of “habitual residence” of the individual obtaining maintenance. Generally, if the decision is made in the country where a person seeking maintenance resides, any future proceedings seeking to modify or make a new decision must be made in the same country as long as the original person seeking maintenance continues to reside there. For example, Husband and Wife get a divorce in Norway, resulting in Husband being ordered to pay child support to Wife. Immediately after the divorce, Husband moves to Ukraine. Five years later, he wants to file a motion to modify. If Wife still lives in Norway, Husband must file his motion there.
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In conclusion, the Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance will make it easier to recover a child support and family maintenance in an international setting. The goal of the Convention is not to examine decisions on child support orders, but rather to create an efficient process to enforce those orders. While the logistics of creating a Central Authority in each country may be cumbersome in the beginning, today’s globalized economy makes it a necessity to streamline the international family maintenance process.

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Hague Convention: “Habitual Residence” of the Child

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Abduction, contrary to popular belief, is not an international child custody treaty.  By this, I mean that the treaty was not created for the purpose of deciding which parent should have custody of a child.  The purpose, generally speaking, is to provide a method of determining which country the child custody case will occur.  In determining where a custody case will occur, the Hague Convention asks the pivotal question, “Where was the habitual residence of the child at the time the child was allegedly wrongfully removed or retained?”

Notably, the Hague Convention itself does not define habitual residence.  Thus, it has been left to the courts to decipher this important question.  First, the habitual residence of a child is almost entirely determined based on the unique facts and circumstances of a particular case.  Basically, the court will dive into the facts and circumstances of the parties and the child in each case and make a determination of the child’s habitual residence.

Some of the factors the courts look at in determining habitual residence (but definitely not all of them)  are as follows:

  • The intentions of the parents
  • Statements made by the parents
  • Employment of the parents
  • The location of the parents’ families
  • Whether a move was intended to be temporary or permanent
  • The length of time the parent(s) or child have resided in a particular country
  • The child’s schooling in a particular country
  • The child’s involvement in extracurricular activities
  • The child’s involvement in the community

This is by no means a comprehensive list but it gives a sense of what courts will consider.  It also shows just how fact intensive the habitual residence inquiry can be and it demonstrates how the unique facts of each case can determine the outcome.  Further, different courts attribute different weight to these various factors.  Some courts weigh heavily the actions and intentions of the parents.  Other courts focus more on where the child is and what the child has been doing.  Other courts weigh all of these factors almost equally.  Needless to say, it is important in any Hague Convention case to articulate the facts of your case and, depending on your jurisdiction, emphasize those facts that the court in your jurisdiction weighs most heavily.

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The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Abduction

One of the primary treaties dealing with international custody/abduction issues is the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Abduction. You can learn more about this treaty on their website:

http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.text&cid=24

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