[The TL;DR of this post: get in touch with Melissa Kucinski for help in international abduction cases.]
Well over two years ago, in “The Hague Child Abduction Convention applies first” I posted a bit about that Convention’s primacy when a lawyer calls me for help in serving process in custody actions. Where a parent has taken his/her child(ren) abroad contrary to the other parent’s wishes, or wrongfully retained the child(ren) abroad, merely pursuing a custody order in the U.S. is rarely the right first step. From that post:
An attorney called me last week from Chicago. He said that his client’s five year-old son had been plucked out of Illinois by his father and taken to the father’s home country, Poland. The lawyer’s two questions: (1) how quickly can I get the father served with a summons and custody petition under the Hague Convention, and (2) how difficult will it be to get the Polish courts to enforce the order once Cook County issues it?
Well, to answer your questions, (1) a few months, and (2) it’ll be difficult and costly.
But those aren’t the right questions. If I read you correctly, the primary objective is to get the child back, right? (“Of course,” replied he.)
Then I have some good news for you.
I went on to describe how there’s no single “Hague Convention”, and offered that the Hague Child Abduction Convention (“the 1980 Convention” in common Hague parlance) provides certain speed and immediacy that the Hague Service Convention (1965) cannot. Sure, it may still be necessary to implement the 1965 Service Convention for the divorce & custody proceedings that follow (and that’s where I come in) but if the objective is the child(ren)’s immediate return to the U.S., faster and less costly mechanisms are in place.
The even better news that I’ve been able to give lately is that we have a colleague who is significantly more knowledgeable than I am when it comes to this particular treaty and its operation. Melissa publishes an outstanding blog on a range of cross-border family law issues, so I can unreservedly direct inquiries her way.