The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was created to protect children from being abducted and taken away from their home country. Abusers are now using this treaty as a way to manipulate the courts to regain custody of their children. As Misha Valencia writes for WhoWhatWhy, an analysis of Hague cases and court decisions found that “an overwhelming number of ‘abductors’ were really mothers escaping abuse—and that the majority of them were forced to return their children” to abusive partners. Children’s fear of abusive fathers and mothers’ claims of abuse are often dismissed or not believed. According to psychotherapist Sarah Gundle, “the intention of this treaty was to protect children, but, in reality, the legal system and the Hague Convention often fail to understand the principles of trauma and how they play out for abuse survivors and vulnerable children.”
With 101 countries participating in this treaty, the repercussions of these cases is truly global. Article 13(b) of the Hague Convention allows for exceptions to be made, if a child’s return home might expose them to physical or mental trauma. In domestic violence situations, Gundle explains, “batterers frequently take their anger out on their children” when their spouse is no longer present. In 2020, Hague Commission issued a “Guide to Good Practice” which emphasized the importance of Article 13(b) but failed to acknowledge that many survivors of abuse are too afraid to report abuse for fear of disbelief, embarrassment, or shame. Without a history of filing claims, mothers and children fleeing from abusive environments cannot meet a strict standard of proof for court cases. The American Judges Association reports that abusers get shared custody approximately seventy percent of the time.
Source: Misha Valencia, “Treaty Created to Stop Child Abductors Could Now be Protecting Abusers,” WhoWhatWhy, July 20, 2020, https://whowhatwhy.org/2020/07/20/treaty-once-created-to-stop-child-abductions-could-now-be-protecting-abusers/.
Student Researchers: Meredith Chapple and Maricella Chavez (Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame)
Faculty Evaluator: Helen K. Ho (Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame)