How Do the Hague Convention and the UCCJEA Compare?

Matters of custody across international borders can be extremely complicated, but parents both in and outside of the United States have several legal recourses. If you are a Virginia parent seeking enforcement of custody orders in a case involving an international party, here are some factors to consider.

The Hague Convention and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act both deal with matters of child custody in international cases. Among other things, the Hague Convention addresses the return of children abducted across international boundaries among the countries that agreed to participate in the treaty. According to the U.S. Department of State, the UCCJEA, in contrast, has two important functions. First, it gives jurisdiction to the courts in the child’s home state with respect to custody determination and litigation. Second, it legislates the enforcement of visitation and custody decisions made in foreign courts.

Depending on the details of your case, one or both of these legal guidelines may be useful for you. Here are some of the pros and cons of the Hague Convention as compared to the UCCJEA.

If you are seeking rapid resolution, the UCCJEA may offer some benefits because it demands nearly instantaneous enforcement of an order. In contrast, the Hague Convention does not set a specific schedule but does have options to request explanations for delays.

On the one hand, the Hague Convention provides looser guidelines with respect to obligations for the return of a child. It permits exceptions to return orders (but may mandate a return regardless of such exceptions). This treaty leaves the issue of foreign visits up to the courts to decide and does not specify that children must be returned to a foreign country for visitation. Furthermore, the Hague Convention permits you to seek your child’s return in cases of international abduction even when no custody order exists.

On the other hand, the UCCJEA is strict in terms of the interpretation of foreign rulings and demands compliance with return and visitation orders. To seek expedited enforcement under the UCCJEA, you must have a court order for visitation or custody.

The UCCJEA has been enacted in 49 states (including Virginia), and enforcement of custody and visitation orders must take place through state courts. The same holds true for access cases under the Hague Convention. However, you may bring to court return cases within the purview of the Hague Convention at either state or federal levels.

Last but not least, the UCCJEA applies if your child is under the age of 18. The Hague Convention, in comparison, is only applicable if your child is under the age of 16.

This information is provided for educational purposes and is not intended as legal advice.