Viewpoint: Rapid rise in global family disputes

Dr Ruth Lamont is a lecturer in law at the Liverpool Law School and a member of the European Children’s Rights Unit.

International family disputes

“Recent figures from the Office of the Head of International Family Justice for England and Wales have shown an increase in the number of family law disputes over children that have an international dimension. International family law disputes have become much more common because of the ease of international travel and increases in family migration between different countries. This means that a child’s parents may live in different countries, and it is increasingly easy to move a child across an international border. The figures highlight a rise in parental child abduction and the particular problems associated with the global regulation of this problem.

Parental Child Abduction

“Parental child abduction occurs when a child is removed by one parent from their home country to another country without the consent of the other parent. This means that the child is removed from familiar home surroundings and obviously causes great distress for the left-behind parent who loses contact with their child. Most abductions are carried out by the child’s mother, but there are a variety of complicated motivations for this behaviour.

Since 1980 there has been an international agreement, the Hague Abduction Convention, which aims to return an abducted child to their home country. This is regarded as a successful Convention but it does not have global coverage. If a child is abducted between two signatories to the Convention, the return remedy will apply. However, recent cases have highlighted the uncertainties where the child is taken to a country which is not a signatory to the Convention. In these circumstances, it is much more difficult to access legal remedies to ensure the return of the child to their home country.

“As international family disputes have become more common there has renewed focus on encouraging international cooperation between different countries and legal systems through the Hague Conference on Private International Law and the EU, but international child abduction remains one of the most difficult aspects of family law.”


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