Hague Convention vs. Hague Conference

When it comes to international law, particularly international child custody cases there is a patchwork of organizations and laws that are operative. Part of what makes this all very confusing is the language. For example, lawyers who specialize in international child abduction cases, are familiar with  The Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction which is a multi-lateral treaty. That means many governments have signed on to it, but many have not.

The Hague Conference on Private International Law is the association of all the governments that are members. It is the gathering of all the various countries representatives in one place to discuss how each countries laws will be applied and to create mechanisms for two countries to talk to each other, legally and diplomatically.

Each Conference member may or may not, be part of a Convention. A Convention is when the government’s (members) get together and agree on the ground rules or laws for a particular topic.

The Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty, which seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return. The “Child Abduction Section” provides information about the operation of the Convention and the work of the Hague Conference in monitoring its implementation and promoting international co-operation in the area of child abduction.

The United States of America for example is both a member of the Conference and the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Japan and Korea are also members of the Conference, but NOT members of the Convention, as of January 2011. There are ongoing discussions for them to join the Convention, but they are not yet signatories to the Convention – which means that if a child is abducted to those countries there is no mechanism for the legal retrieval of the child.


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