Michigan makes interesting move on child abduction

Interesting news from the US state of Michigan: its senate recently gave unanimous approval to draft legislation which would prevent parents involved in child residence disputes from taking children to countries which have not signed the Hague Convention on Child Abduction.

As regular readers will know, the Hague Convention is a frequent topic on this blog. Originally signed in 1980, 88 states have now signed up to this international agreement, which provides a legal framework for the return of a child taken by a parent without leave from one participating state to another: an action which is legally considered to be child abduction. This most often occurs when a couple from different countries separate and one wishes to return home.

There is no doubt in my mind that that the Convention, despite the occasional controversy, has been an enormous force for good in family law since its introduction, helping to accelerate and simplify the resolution of these always difficult cases. But 88 signatories leaves plenty of countries that aren’t – yet at least – party to the convention.

The Michigan legislation – ‘senate bill 1000’ – was sponsored by Senator John Moolenaar. He explained the thinking behind the proposal:

“This legislation is about addressing the serious problem of international child abduction. While researching this issue, we found multiple cases in the 36th Senate District alone. The most famous of these instances is the heartbreaking tale of an Alpena mother that was chronicled in the book and movie, ‘Not Without My Daughter.’ Three decades later, international child abduction remains a problem.”

The senator claimed there are countries outside the convention just hours away, “leaving the other parent without any recourse if the child is not returned — especially in nations where women have little to no rights.”

Molenaar’s law would specifically require that:

“A parenting time [contact] order shall contain a prohibition on exercising parenting time in a country that is not a party to the Hague convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction.”

Both parents involved in a residence dispute would need to provide the courts with written permission if they wished to take a child to a country which has not signed the Hague Convention – for example, India.

Senate Bill 1000 has now gone to the state’s upper house for further consideration.

I will be very intrigued to see whether this bill enters law, and if it does, whether it proves to be helpful or a hindrance.

Photo of the Michigan Senate Chamber by Steve & Christine via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence

Marilyn Stowe

The senior partner at Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers with clients throughout the country, in Europe, the Far East and the USA.

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