The US and Canadian chapter of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (IAML) recently held a meeting at the New York State Bar, at which they looked at recent developments in the law pursuant to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Speakers included Dr Christophe Bernasconi, the Secretary General of the Hague Conference on Private International Law and Justice Diana Bryant the Chief Justice of the Family Court in Australia.
With Japan signing the Hague Convention and it becoming law there on 1 April 2014, the US reports that it has two cases pending where it anticipates returns from Japan. However, what was perhaps a little surprising was the dearth of statistics illustrating the number of returns as against requests made between the various Member States (91 in all).
Anecdotal evidence from around the world is that a great deal of time, effort (and therefore money) is spent arguing the points under Article 12 (usually as to whether or not the child was habitually resident in State A)and Article 13(b) in respect of whether the return of the child would expose him or her to a grave risk of physical or psychological harm.
International Travel Child Consent Agreement
In an effort to cut down the number of cases fought pursuant to Articles 12 and 13 respectively, the I CARE Foundation, an organisation dedicated to preventing international parental child abduction, devised the International Travel Child Consent Agreement (ITCCA), which has been designed for completion by the parents of a child (or children) where it is proposed that a child will travel out of his or her home jurisdiction.
At first sight the ITCCA form is rather daunting, comprising 8 pages which must be signed by both parents (and sometimes in several places) and notarised before the child can travel. Whilst off-putting for some, the clear purpose and intention behind the form is, for example:
- to stop the travelling parent, who may seek to change his or her mind about returning, from arguing in subsequent Hague Convention proceedings that the child was not habitually resident in its “home” state/country; and/or
- to give a promise not to place the child in grave risk of physical or psychological harm or otherwise place him in an intolerable situation.
The I CARE Foundation has reported that the use of the ITCCA form has meant that a large number of children have travelled safely from one country to another and returned home without incident when using the form. It also claims that the refusal on the part of a parent to sign the form has led to a Court restricting travel and directing additional child abduction prevention measures. Use of the form is to be applauded and its further widespread introduction and use can only be encouraged.
The ITCCA form is available in England and Spanish and can be downloaded from www.stopchildabduction.org/Child_Travel_Consent_Form.html.