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Webinar on COVID-19 and international child abduction

A free webinar to hear experts of MK Family Law (Washington) and Grotius Chambers (The Hague) discuss pertinent issues relating to international child abduction in times of COVID-19. 

Date: 8 April 2020
Time: 3 pm (CET Amsterdam)

COVID-19 has a significant impact on all aspects of our lives. Since the WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic, numerous States have implemented travel bans in an attempt to contain its spread. Moreover, States have closed courts and adjourned or even cancelled hearings.

Such restrictions cause direct impacts on transnational families. They may hinder, in particular, the prompt return of children in cases of international child abduction. Parents may encounter difficulties in commencing proceedings before the competent authorities, as well as complying with an agreement or return order.

Child Abduction and Habitual Residence in the Supreme Court of Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada, in Office of the Children’s Lawyer v Balev (available here), has evolved the law in Canada on the meaning of a child’s habitual residence under Article 3 of the Hague Convention.  The Convention deals with the return of children wrongfully removed from the jurisdiction of their habitual residence.

A majority of the court identifies [paras 4 and 39ff] three possible approaches to habitual residence: the parental intention approach, the child-centred approach, and the hybrid approach.  The parental intention approach determines the habitual residence of a child by the intention of the parents with the right to determine where the child lives.  This approach has been the dominant one in Canada.  In contrast, the hybrid approach, instead of focusing primarily on either parental intention or the child’s acclimatization, looks to all relevant considerations arising from the facts of the case.  A majority of the court, led by the (now retired) Chief Justice, holds that the law in Canada should be the hybrid approach [paras 5 and 48].  One of the main reasons for the change is that the hybrid approach is used in many other Hague Convention countries [paras 49-50].

Intersection of Child Abduction Process and Refugee Claim

The Court of Appeal for Ontario has released its decision in A.M.R.I. v. K.E.R. (available here).  The decision deals with the intersection of the law relating to children who advance a refugee claim and the law on returning abducted children under the Hague Convention.

A girl of 12 had travelled from Mexico, where she lived with her mother (who had custody), to Ontario to visit her father (who had access rights).  There she disclosed that she had been abused by her mother.  She made a refugee application and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada found her to be a refugee as a result of the abuse.  After she had lived in Ontario for about 18 months, the mother applied under the Hague Convention for her return to Mexico.  The Superior Court of Justice ordered that she be returned, and she was – in quite a remarkable way which violated her right to dignity and respect (para. 7).  On appeal, the Court of Appeal reversed that decision.  It set aside the order of return and ordered a new hearing on the Hague Convention application.