After the breakup of international or mixed culture couples, one of the parents may choose to leave the country together with the children in order to return to his/her home country. However, if the other parent has not given his/her consent, then this action may be qualified as International Child Abduction.
Our Family Lawyers receive frequently requests from parents asking for clarifications on the steps to be taken in such cases.
These are the most frequently asked questions:
Case I: My former partner has taken our child to another country without my authorization.
Case II: I have given my consent to my former partner to go on holidays with our child, but they have not returned back.
What can I do?
In the first case, the child has been taken out of the country of his/her habitual residence without the consent of the other parent.
In the second case, the other parent keeps the child in another country for a longer period than the one agreed.
Both cases fall under the scope of the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Therefore, you can launch the relevant legal proceedings for the return of your child.
What is the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abductions?
The Hague Convention is a treaty that was concluded in 1980 in order to:
- “secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to or retained in any Contracting State”.
- “ensure that rights of custody and of access under the law of one Contracting State are effectively respected in the other Contracting States”.
Please note, Cyprus is a signatory to the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and as such it abides by its provisions.
What should I do for the successful return of my child?
You have to prove that:
- You have at least shared custody for the child.
- You have been exercising that custody.
- Your child’s habitual residence is in your country.
- The other parent has taken the child to another country without or exceeded the agreed period for a visit to another country without your consent.
On what grounds can the abducting parent win the case?
The abducting parent might obtain a decision in his/her favour, provided that he/she proves that:
- the other parent, asking for the return of the child, was not “actually exercising custody rights at the time of the removal or retention”.
- the other parent “had consented to or acquiesced in the removal or retention”.
- more than one year has passed from the time of wrongful removal until the date of the commencement of judicial or administrative proceedings.
- the child is old enough and has a sufficient degree of maturity to declare that he/she does not want to return.
- “there is grave risk that the child’s return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation”.
- that the return would deny the child basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.
How long will the return of my children take?
The Hague Convention provides for the immediate return of children that have been abducted from their country of habitual residence. The State signatory of the Convention dealing with a return application should reach decision within 6 weeks after its receipt.
I have obtained the return of my child. Does it mean that I have won the physical custody of my child?
No, the child abduction cases that fall under the scope the Hague Convention are not assimilated to child custody cases.
The decision taken under the Hague Convention is not a custody decision.
In order to obtain the custody of your child, you have to file the relevant application at the court of your country.
I think that my former partner might attempt to abduct our child and leave Cyprus. What can I do to prevent that from happening?
In this case, an application can be filed at the Court in order to obtain a Court order, forbidding the exit of the child from Cyprus. In case the other parent attempts to leave Cyprus with your child, the airport or port police will be alerted in order to prevent it.
If you require advice on what actions can be taken in Cyprus and abroad, regarding child abduction situations, you can get in touch with our Family Lawyers.