Ministry of Justice
International Child Abduction
Cases involving international child abduction can be heart-rending for the left-behind parent. The pain of unexpectedly losing contact with a child is often compounded by the complexities of dealing with long distances, a foreign court and family law system, a different language and financial pressures.
Here is some information about the law relating to these cases.
Section 55 of the Family Relations Act* provides that the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Convention) has the force of law in B.C. The Convention is an international treaty in force among some 87 countries. The primary goal of the Convention is to achieve the prompt return of children wrongfully removed or retained from their place of habitual residence. A removal or retention is wrongful when it is in breach of custody rights held by a person, court or other body. In most Convention cases, children are abducted by a parent.
(*Note: British Columbia introduced new family law legislation in November 2011, entitled the Family Law Act. It is expected to come into force approximately mid-2013 and will replace the Family Relations Act. In the new act, the relevant section is Section 80.)
The Convention applies to children under the age of 16. It promotes a quick court process in which a left-behind parent applies for the child’s return. The application is heard and decided in the country to which the child has been taken. The court in that country applies the Convention, but does not decide which parent should have custody. Custody issues are left to be decided by the courts of the child’s habitual residence, if the child is ordered to be returned.
The secondary goal of the Convention is to enable access between parents and children separated by international borders.
To achieve Convention goals, each jurisdiction appoints a central authority. The delegated central authority for B.C. is Penny Lipsack, a lawyer with the Ministry of Justice. She may be contacted at: 250 356-8433 or Penelope.Lipsack@gov.bc.ca.
The B.C. central authority assists parents whose children have been abducted across international borders, either to or from B.C. The central authority provides information and support to parents directly or assists their legal counsel in B.C. or in the other country.
For more information about international abductions or international access, contact Penny Lipsack.
More information about the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is available in Frequently Asked Questions.