Hague Convention

Updated February 2017   Fact Sheet PDF


The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a treaty between many nations that was made to secure the quick return of a child who has been internationally abducted.


This can help you locate your children and seek their return. Military personnel and their families live in a very mobile society. Relocating can create unique problems for a parent who is divorced or never married to their child’s other parent.


Legal documents (often called custody orders) state who the legal and physical custodial parent is. Sometimes these custody orders are in a decree of divorce. Sometimes, if the parents never married, then there may not be any legal document about custody.


What Can You Do?

If a child is missing, first contact your local police department, file a missing person report, and request entry of the report into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Always keep a copy of birth certificates and a recent photo of each child.


The State Department can provide detailed information about the country where the child was abducted. This can include information about its legal system, family laws, and attorneys willing to accept American clients.


The State Department can also:

  • be a point of contact to parents in need
  • monitor court or other legal proceedings overseas
  • assist parents in contacting local officials in foreign countries


Contacting the State Department

A new toll-free number from the U.S. State Department can give you information you need on international parental child abduction.


Agents are available at 1-202-485-6205 to assist you from 7:15 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call toll-free 1-888-407-4747 outside office hours; citizens abroad may call 1-202-501-4444 outside office hours.


Passport Lookout Database

Parents can also have their child listed in a federal passport look-out database in case a passport is applied for in the child's name.


For more information, visit travel.state.gov and search for “preventing international parental child abduction.”



  • the Hague Convention does not decide who should have custody; instead, it decides which country has jurisdiction of the case
  • the Hague Convention only applies to countries that have signed the treaty
  • the United States signed the treaty in 1988; more than 50 other countries have also signed the treaty
  • both countries have to be members (by having signed the treaty) of the Hague Convention
  • it is only available when a child has been wrongfully removed from their country and taken to another country
  • the petitioner (often the other parent) must show that the removal or retention is “wrongful”
  • return of the child is to the member nation rather than specifically to the left-behind parent
  • only applies to children 15 and younger

This fact sheet is a collaboration of the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas, Inc. These nonprofit organizations provide free legal assistance to eligible Arkansans who meet income, asset, and other guidelines. Legal assistance may also include advice and counsel, brief services, or full representation depending on the situation. For more information about civil legal aid in Arkansas, please visit arlegalservices.org. For information specific to Legal Aid of Arkansas, Inc., visit arlegalaid.org. Apply for services online or by calling 1-800-9-LAW-AID (1-800-952-9243).
The information and statements of law in this fact sheet should not be considered legal advice. This fact sheet is provided as a broad guide to help you understand how certain legal matters are handled in general. Courts may interpret the law differently. Before you take action, talk to an attorney and follow his or her advice. Always do what the court tells you to do.
Content provided by: Center for Arkansas Legal Services


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