Support the Going Home Together Campaign 2015. Stop The Hague Convention being used as a weapon against Expat parents who just want to return home with their children after a failed relocation abroad. Read our 6 proposals. Revise The Hague Convention!
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The Going Home Together Campaign 2015
This year hundreds of babies and children around the world will lose their parent because of ‘The Hague Convention’. We are launching this campaign to revise and redefine the law to allow justice to be done.
The ‘Going Home Together’ campaign is about changing the law for parents that come from the same country but move abroad. In cases where the parents split up and one parent does not want the other to return home with the children, The Hague Convention can be used to enforce the entrapment of the children in a foreign country. This was not the original intention of The Hague Convention but its use is causing many problems for children worldwide. This campaign hopes to highlight the injustice of this scenario and gives 6 proposals for change to the convention.
A British couple move from the UK to Spain with their 6 month old baby. After 6 months they split up because the father becomes violent towards the mother. The mother is the primary carer for the child. The mother wants to go home to the UK with the baby but the father blocks this because he would rather stay in Spain. The mother is forced to start a court case in Spain to get permission from the court as the father said he won’t let the baby leave Spain. She waits for 2 years before it comes to court, she has no money and is sleeping on her neighbour’s floor. She can’t find a job and has no real friends. Before the court process has finished (another 2 years) she has had to go home without her baby (now 3 years old) because she cannot afford to stay in Spain – either emotionally or financially.
Why didn’t she just take the baby home?
If the mother had just taken the baby back to the UK the father would have used ‘The Hague Convention’ to get the police and social services to bring the baby back to Spain. The mother would have been classed as a ‘child abductor’, and it would have damaged any court case the mother might have attempted later.
Proposed changes to the convention:
1. Change the name – ‘Abduction’ is not accurate in ‘going home’ cases! The term ‘Abductor’ that the ‘The Hague Convention’ uses is both misleading and unhelpful to this situation. According to studies by Reunite in 70% of ‘abduction’ cases it is the mother who just wants to go home. In 90% of these cases she is the primary carer. The terminology and attitudes need to change.
2. Article 4: The term ‘Habitual residence’ needs to be re-defined.
a) A child should be classed as ‘habitually resident’ only after a 2 year period living in that jurisdiction. This would allow families to be given a 2 year cooling off period after they move to a foreign country.
b) There are certain circumstances where the term ‘habitual residence’ should be less of a block to a child returning ‘home’. For example: when the parent does not have a permanent visa to stay; when both parents come from the same ‘home’ country; when the child was born in that ‘home’ country; when children live in an Expat community abroad and they are not in contact with ‘ a different social structure, culture and … language.’ *
3. Article 11: (an addition) ‘Going home’ cases need to be dealt with rapidly and resolved in less than 6 months within the country of ‘habitual residence’. This should be understood worldwide as good practice in accordance with ‘The Washington Agreement’
4. Article 13 b) Returning to an intolerable situation (After a child has moved without permission) Certain relocation cases should be transferred to the ‘taken to’ jurisdiction:
a) If there has been violence committed towards the mother as primary care giver it needs to be recognised that the child will be in an intolerable situation if returned to that place. The child should not be returned because of safe guarding issues.
b) If the primary caregiver is in an intolerable situation (financially, risk of violence, emotionally, physically), it follows that the child will be too. Therefore, the court should not return the child.The law needs to accept the fact that to young children (pre-school age) the presence of the primary carer (according to Reunite it’s 90% mothers) is more important than the location of where they live.
5. Additional safeguarding must be added to the convention:
If The Hague Convention does apply and children are to be returned, the country who requested it must ensure the parent and child have their financial and legal and safeguarding needs met whilst the case is in court. There should be an upper waiting time limit on this court of 6 months. After this time the primary carer must have the right to return with the child to their home country and have the trial there instead.
6. Immigration Law and Family Law must match up
The current laws are in conflict with one another. Families are moving to countries on temporary visas with no permanent right to remain there, yet children are being returned to countries under the Hague Convention whilst on temporary visas. Parents are being forced to leave their children after failed migrations because they cannot obtain a visa to remain in their own right following a separation from the father. Children should not be forced to return to a country that they have no legal status to remain in.
Current Case Study:
A British family move to Australia in 2012 on temporary visas that expire in April 2016. The visa is obtained by the mother for work reasons and her husband and children are dependents of her on that visa. The family intend to live and work in Australia for three years and return to England in 2015 for the children to start school in September of that year. In 2013 the mother and father separate and file for divorce. The father cannot remain in Australia in his own right beyond 2016 but objects to the mother leaving Australia with the children when they originally intended and refuses to consent to them leaving. The mother cannot return home with the children as originally intended because she would be guilty of ‘child abduction’ and the children would then be forced to return to a country until at least April 2016 when they would then be there illegally and all four members of the family would have to leave anyway. The mother is now faced with the option of remaining and doing nothing until the visas expire and the children miss the start of their UK schooling, or she pays thousands of pounds in legal fees to try and be allowed to ‘come home’’ as originally planned.
Please support our ‘Going home together’ campaign. It will mean happiness for many hundreds of children and parents all over the world.
Re-send this letter and sign our petition. Many thanks,
Expat Stuck Parent
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