November saw the introduction of a new child protection regime for children from the UK who live beyond the EU’s borders, following the adoption of the 1996 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, otherwise known as the ‘Hague Abduction Convention’. Previously, children of EU member states were only protected within the EU.

Any child who moves to a country outside the EU that is a signatory to the Convention will now be covered by the requirement for that country to enforce any child protection order made by a UK court. Non EU signatories to the Convention include Albania, Australia, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Morocco, Switzerland and Uruguay.

Justice Minister Lord McNally promised that the Government would ensure that children from the UK and other countries are protected no matter where they or their parents live. He said, “By enforcing child protection orders we are ensuring that children from the UK will receive the best possible care as decided by the court.”

The Hague Abduction Convention is a multilateral treaty developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law. The Convention provides a method to return a child abducted by a parent from one signatory state to another. The Convention was drafted to ensure the prompt return of children who have been abducted from their main country of residence or wrongfully retained in another country. The aim of the Convention is to deter a parent from crossing international boundaries in search of a sympathetic court. It only applies to children under the age of 16.

From 1 November 2012, a whole range of court decisions involving children moving to and from participating states has been enforced under the Convention. These include decisions as to who has parental responsibility, to what extent and how it can be used, custody rights, the right to decide the child’s place of residence, and rights of access.

The Convention is not retrospective, however, and only applies to decisions about the protection of a child taken on or after 1 November. Recognition and enforcement of judgments between the UK and EU Member States has applied since March 2005 and will continue to be used.