International child abduction. Part 1. Russian lawyer Anton Zharov

How to understand that this is abduction?

Where to start?

Is it necessary to go to Russia immediately?

Is it possible to hire a Russian lawyer distantly?

What are the guarantees of a child return?

Why the child cannot be returned?

What if the child will object to being returned?

Hello, my name is Anton Zharov. I am a Russian lawyer, and I am practising in the city of Moscow. One of my areas of practice is international child abduction. Today we are going to talk about it.  

International child abduction is not the situation when pirates or some kind of gangsters kidnap a child. It is the situation when one parent removes the child without the consent of the second parent. That is why if your child’s parent has taken him or her and removed to Russia without your consent, this video is for you.

How to understand that this is abduction?

If a child was taken away without your consent and you are this child’s parent then this is an abduction. If the child was abducted to another state, that will be an international abduction. In this case the Hague Convention of 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction comes exactly into force. To return the child to the state where he or she was wrongfully removed from is the object of this Convention. Besides the Convention regulates two more aspects: wrongful retention and rights of access to the child if it is written into the judicial decision or the agreement between the parents. But today we are going to talk about international child abduction – taking a child and removing him or her wrongfully to another state, in particular to Russia.

Where to start?

To start with applying to a lawyer. First in your state and then in the state where the child was abducted to. Lawyers will help you to prepare an application to the so-called Central Authority for a return of a child. In the Russian Federation it is the Ministry of Education. It is necessary to submit there a specially filled in form, on the basis of which the Ministry of Education will organize a search for the child if you do not know about his or her whereabouts. If you know where the child is, then you will need two things: a lawyer in Russia and the Russian judicial authority. 

Is it necessary to go to Russia immediately?

In order to start the procedure of the child return from the Russian Federation, you do not need to arrive here. It is enough to have a representative here and a lot of things can be done distantly. 

Is it possible to hire a Russian lawyer distantly?

The contemporary communication media allow to conclude an agreement without personal meeting with a principal – client. It can be made either by mail or e-mail. The payment can be made by cards, usually neither I nor my clients have any problems with it. 

What are the guarantees of a child return?

Unfortunately, nobody provides guarantees. As any judicial procedure it can either succeed or fail. To evaluate your specific situation can be possible only after learning it in particular, but if a child was wrongfully removed to the Russian Federation, the judicial authority must bind over to return this child to the state where he or she was abducted from. Certainly, there can be some exclusions, they are also mentioned in the Convention and we are going to talk about them in details later. But the main rule is the following: if a child was wrongfully removed, he or she must be returned immediately.

Why the child cannot be returned?

The judicial authority does not always order the return of the child. Sometimes the Convention is not invoked to a specific removal of the child across the border, sometimes the judicial authority finds out such exceptional circumstances that do not allow to return the child to the state where he or she was removed from. The exceptional circumstances are connected with the living conditions of the child in the state of his or her habitual residence. For instance, the second parent was beating the child or has committed a crime against the spouse or some other kind of circumstances prevent the child to reside in the state of his or her habitual residence – war, epidemic, flood, namely the conditions under which the child cannot be returned. In this case the judicial authority can refuse the return of the child. 

What if the child will object to being returned?

Another development is when the judicial authority may refuse to order the return of the child if he or she has attained a degree of maturity when he or she can express his or her views, give reasons and objects to being returned to the state where he or she was removed from. For instance, if a child is 10 or 11 years old, and he or she says that he or she objects to being returned to the state of the habitual residence, the judicial authority must take account of these views. 

I hope it has become clear in which cases the Convention is invoked and what you have to do forthwith. In our next video we are going to talk if it is possible to bring about an amicable resolution and what to do if you do not know where the child is.