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Campaign for ‘Cooling Off Period’ Rights for Relocation and Return with Kids

This petition had 850 supporters

This campaign aims to make a small but significant change to an international treaty: ‘The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction’. If implemented it will save literally hundreds of children from being unnecessarily and cruelly separated from a parent each year.

 The background:

Many thousands of families move abroad each year. Some are posted abroad for work, some dream of a better life and all think that if it doesn’t work out they can return home. What people don’t realise is that when children move abroad they are usually considered ‘habitually resident’ in the new country almost immediately. This means that they cannot leave to go home unless BOTH parents consent.

 We are campaigning for parents to have the right of a ‘cooling off’ period after moving abroad. A cooling-off period is defined as: ‘A time during which a person can withdraw from a binding contract without a serious penalty’.

At the moment there is no mechanism available for parents to ‘try out’ living in a prospective country before it is too late and their children are ‘stuck’ there. We propose that a ‘cooling off’ period of a minimum of two years is introduced for same nationality families. This will mean that if one parent wants to return home, for whatever reason, they can do so within this time period without having to apply to a court in the new country.

 For example:

Dave and Sarah move to New Zealand as Dave has been offered a job there. Sarah is a stay-at-home mother, looking after the couple’s toddlers; she does her best to make friends and settle in to their new home but it’s just not the same… and then Dave has an affair. Sarah decides to get a divorce and plans on going home with the children. It’s been less than a year since the move, but Sarah discovers she is unable to return home legally with the children. If she goes without Dave’s permission he could use ‘’ The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction” which was set up to prevent ‘parental child abduction’. She would end up in court, and the children would probably be ordered to return to NZ within 6 weeks. Alternatively she could stay in NZ and apply for a ‘leave to remove’ order or to ‘relocate’ back home  – unfortunately this can take YEARS, up to 5 years and cost many thousands. For Sarah, this is impossible – she has no savings, and now to cap it all, no visa as she only had a spousal visa.

Sarah is forced to go back home alone, without her two young children.

In just one year she has lost everything.   Our suggested amendment would simply allow Sarah to return home with her children, and Dave would have the CHOICE whether to stay in NZ or return home with his family.

Conversely when a couple migrate for economic reasons to a developed country such as the UK and have a child then separate, the baby’s primary caregiver would not be allowed to return ‘home’ if the 'bread-winning' partner does not give permission. In practice, this often means that  the mother is forced to apply for British benefits in order to survive with her baby in, what is to her, a foreign country when she desperately needs to go home for family support.

We ask all members of The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction to:

Define the term ‘habitual residence’ so it applies only after the child of a same nationality couple has lived a minimum of 2 years in the new jurisdiction.

This change would effectively disallow same nationality parents from misusing laws designed to stop ‘parental child abduction’ and effectively introduce a ‘cooling off’ period of 2 years after a same nationality family move abroad, during which either parent can freely return home with the children.

Please sign and share this petition to stop children losing their parent. We need to get as many signatures as possible before the next HCCH meeting in 2017.


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