In October judges and government representatives from around the world will meet to discuss the workings of ‘The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction’. This is our chance to improve the system!
GlobalARRK, a UK registered charity, has been supporting ‘stuck parents’ around the world for the last 5 years. Visa restrictions, unemployment, poverty, language barriers and loneliness can make life impossible for the stuck parent and child. The parent often has to make the choice to either return to their home country without their child or to take their child illegally. We hope that solutions can be agreed on, so that it is possible for parents to make better, less traumatic choices and that fewer children end up losing their primary carer.
We would like to invite ALL interested parties of The Hague Network – lawyers, judges, politicians and parents to come together and reflect on the practical workings of this law and to come up with solutions. We have selected some key areas that need attention. We invite you to add your name to this petition. Here is the basic outline of the proposals, email us for a more in depth version.
1. Clearly define Habitual Residence across all Hague signatory countries
We propose that the Habitual Residence of a child updates 12 months after they move abroad. This length of time is surely the minimum to allow the child to become integrated as well as learn some of the customs and language of the new country. After the 12 months, there should be a clear checklist available to parents and law professionals to give guidance on indicators of Habitual Residence. If HR was defined in a clear timeframe Governments and NGOs like GlobalARRK could then publicise the law effectively to parents before they move abroad, which would serve to PREVENT many cases of wrongful removal and retention.
2. Standardise relocation criteria and Prioritise Relocation Applications for ‘going home cases’
We propose that relocation applications, where the applicant parent is from another country and wants to take their children home, should be made a priority in family courts, and should be completed within 6 months. We propose that Washington Declaration guidance is used consistently worldwide and international social services be employed to ensure unbiased accurate information is conveyed to judges and that no matter where a parent is ‘stuck’ they have the same chances of returning home. Also, that data from courts be collected and analysed to ensure that the ‘chances’ of relocation are consistent and fair worldwide.
3. Consider all parents for a permanent visa to stay with their children.
We propose that all non-abusive parents with parental responsibility be considered eligible for a permanent visa to live and work in the country where their child lives and is considered ‘habitually resident’. This is concurrent with the UN Rights of the Child, Article 9 as a child should not be separated from his or her parents against their will unless there is abuse or a judicial review.
4. Make means tested legal aid available in all ‘going home cases’ for both Relocation and Hague.
We propose that all parents can access means tested legal aid for going home cases, whether Relocation or Hague.
5. Improve safeguarding procedures for returning children after a Hague case.
We propose that the highest standards of safeguarding be properly implemented prior to the return of a child, using Mirror Orders that can be enforced in BOTH countries.
6. Recognise Pre-Emigration contracts.
We propose that judges are made aware of this Pre Emigration document as proof of ‘prior acquiescence’.
7. Protect victims of domestic abuse in Hague and relocation cases
Our survey tells us that a high percentage of ‘stuck’ parents have experienced domestic abuse after emigrating abroad. We propose that courts follow the recommendations from The Hague Domestic Violence Project who have completed research into domestic abuse and Hague cases. https://gspp.berkeley.edu/assets/uploads/page/HagueDV_final_report.pdf