Hague Convention of 1980

The object of the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is to secure the prompt return of a child wrongfully removed to or retained in another country than where the child normally lives.

The object of the convention is that the child should be brought back to the country where it normally lives (country of habitual residence) so that any disputes between the parents about custody, the child’s residence and rights of access can be resolved there.

The Hague Convention is applicable in all situations, that is, where a parent has custody under the law, and where a decision has been made on custody or the child’s residence. By contrast, the European Convention is only applicable, if a decision has been made on custody, the child’s residence or rights of access. In addition, the decision must be enforceable.

The convention defines removal or retention as wrongful if it is in breach of a parent’s rights of custody which were actually exercised at the time when the child was abducted or retained.

In a case of abduction, the country to which the child has been abducted has a duty to return the child. Return may be refused, however, if one of the following conditions is met:

  • More than one year has elapsed since the abduction/retention, and the child has settled in its new environment.
  • There is a grave risk that return of the child would expose it to psychological or physical harm or otherwise place it in an intolerable situation.
  • The child objects to being returned and has attained an age and degree of maturity at which it is appropriate to take account of its views.
  • Return would not be compatible with fundamental principles relating to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms (ordre public).

The convention prescribes that expeditious action should be taken in cases regarding return of children and that a decision must have been taken within six weeks of receipt of the case.

The convention envisages an amicable solution to the matter.

So as not to render the decision on custody made in the country of habitual residence illusory, the country to which the child has been abducted may not make any decision on custody as long as the return proceedings are pending.

The convention only applies to children under the age of 16 and is only of significance in relation to the countries that have acceded to the convention. The convention applies to both child abductions from Denmark to another convention country and child abductions from another convention country to Denmark.

So far, 84 countries have acceded to the convention. Denmark has accepted entering into cooperation with 49 countries under the convention (see the list to the right). Denmark is continuously working on expanding the group of countries with which Denmark cooperates under the convention.