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Breaking Silence Series 3: The Hague Convention and Family Violence

Updated: Feb 21

Below you'll find an informative short video (15 mins) from the Breaking Silence Series 3 about the Hague Convention and how it relates to family violence.

Often when I deliver training, I am approached by practitioners and responders who are attempting to navigate the extreme complexities of the Hague Convention. There are many aspects to the Hague Convention, but one of the most important amendments is the 25 October 1980 addition called Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The core purpose of this addition is to return a child under the age of 16 years back to the country they normally reside in, if a parent moves them across an international border when the removal is as in breach of custody arrangements (i.e., without the consent of the other parent). The focus of this amendment to the Hague Convention is based on the perspective that a parent that "abducts" a child is attempting to go to a country that will sympathise with that parent's cause.

The Hague Convention allows for the defence of the application for return when there is a grave risk of physical or psychological harm to the child or the return would place the child in an "intolerable situation". However, this defence is complicated as it does not consider it is the parent who has been the primary victim of the family violence and not the child.

Daniel Vincent (Director, CS Law Wellington and experienced lawyer in the Hague Convention) said to Breaking Silence, "There needs to be a connection drawn between the parental conflict and psychological or even the emotional or physical impact upon the child on return. And that's really hard to prove".

The current Hague Convention is not fit for purpose when we are talking about family violence and escaping harm. The Hague Convention was developed in the 1980s and the understanding of family violence has changed significantly since then. There is a need for there to be a review of the Convention in order to provide greater protections to family violence survivors.

Many parents (normally mamas) accompany their children back to the country they are recalled to. Parents do not have to return; it is only an order for the return of the child. Of course, when we are talking family violence, parents do not want their children to be in the sole care of a parent that has harmed them and possibly the children as well. And so, they return to the country, and often the predominant aggressor.

The above short documentary explores two stories of the challenges of the Hague Convention as it relates to situations of family violence. It also introduces the New Zealand Hague Collective that offers support to family violence victims who have returned to New Zealand for safety reasons.

If you are supporting primary victims whose children are facing return under the Hague Convention, please consider contacting the New Zealand Hague Collective. They have experience in supporting parents who are facing a return of the child under the Hague Convention.

The New Zealand Hague Collective - Hague Collective | Hague Convention New Zealand

I hope you find this valuable.

Stay well,


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