Cross-border parental child abduction in the European Union
(by Dr. Lukas HECKENDORN URSCHELER, Dr. Ilaria PRETELL)
Missing Children Publication Hub
Published In: 2015
Upon request by the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), this study aims at analysing the international, European and national legal framework applicable to cross-border parental child abduction, with a view to proposing recommendations for the improvement of the current system. In light of available statistics and case law, five recurrent scenarios giving rise to child abduction legal disputes have been identified. One common scenario is the wrongful removal of a child, which results in the reversal of the balance previously settled in a judicial decision for the exercise of parental rights. A judicial “fast track” through the “automatic” enforcement of foreign decisions on return prescribed by EU Regulation 2201/2003 can be said to have improved the regime of the existing Hague Convention on Child Abduction. In turn, case law shows that when child abduction takes the form of an “illegal transfer of a child’s primary residence abroad” by the primary care-giver, national courts tend to explore more in-depth the “best interests of the child”. The development of appropriate structures of mediation in order to organise the transfer of a child’s residence abroad with one of the parents should prevent “abductions” and improve, in most cases, the relationship between the parents having joint responsibility for the child. In addition to a preventive mediation scheme, a remedial mediation scheme is proposed. If, despite the preventive and remedial mediation schemes, a request return is brought to court in complex situations, it is important to avoid contradictory decisions by the EU judges in the jurisdiction of the present and the former place of residence of the child and to allow careful analysis of the overall situation of the child. To this end, a “jointdecision” reached through the active cooperation of specialised national courts within the EU is proposed. This involves special judicial training – with language and intercultural skills – for international family disputes.
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