Abduction of a child to a foreign country is a period of mental crisis for all those involved, but it can be resolved and in practice this is done unexpectedly quickly in the Czech Republic.
What we can do for you
We will represent you in out-of-court negotiations or return proceedings before Czech or international courts.
We will help you solve potential complications until the moment when the child returns home.
Basic questions and answers on the issue of international child abduction
What constitutes international abduction?
International child abduction is the unauthorised (unlawful) removal or retention of a child outside of their usual country of residence without consent from the other parent or consent from the court. International abduction also refers to the retention of a child abroad for a longer time than agreed by the other parent. Such cases usually result in a breach of child custody rights.
The child’s usual place of residence may differ from the place of permanent residence and may also be in a country of which the child is not a citizen. The usual place of residence is usually the place where the child lives for an extended period of time, where they have social ties and go to school, or the place last agreed on by the parents that the child would live.
When do Czech courts decide, and when do foreign courts?
In order to determine which courts will decide in the case, we distinguish between two basic situations:
a) The child was abducted to the Czech Republic:
This is a situation when the child’s usual place of residence is abroad and the child is unlawfully removed to the Czech Republic. In this case, Czech courts decide about the returning of the child.
b) The child was abducted from the Czech Republic:
This is a situation where the child’s usual place of residence is in the Czech Republic, and they either do not return from abroad by the agreed date, or the child is abducted to a foreign country without consent from the other parent. In this case, foreign courts will decide in the matter of returning the child, specifically the courts of the country to which the child was abducted.
The key document concerning international child abduction is the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction of 1980 (hereinafter referred to as the Hague Convention), which regulates the options of returning unlawfully removed or retained children to their place of usual residence.
What is the difference between countries which are a part to the Hague Convention and those which are not?
The Hague Convention is binding for all EU member states and a number of other countries, a current list of which is available here. The typical course of return proceedings in countries which are parties to the Convention is described below, and their key advantage is speed and the fact that the court primarily examines whether the child was removed lawfully, but does not question who should have custody of the child.
The second group consists of countries which are not bound by the Convention. This includes e.g. Egypt, Iran and a number of other countries. See map. If the child was abducted to a country which is not bound by the Convention, the party whose custody rights were breached (typically the parent who did not consent to removal of the child) must commence traditional child custody proceedings in the given country. Another option is to have the enforceable decision of a Czech court, which decided about custody, recognised in the given country, but in this case other requirements must be met and in some countries this procedure is not possible. Both are generally far lengthier procedures than traditional return proceedings.
How long do the proceedings take and what is their usual course?
a) Return proceedings in the Czech Republic:
Proceedings on returning the minor in the Czech Republic are always conducted before the Municipal Court in Brno, regardless of the child’s factual place of residence in the Czech Republic. It is first necessary to file a motion to commence proceedings, and the court will order the first hearing within 3 weeks. The court then decides as promptly as possible about returning/not returning the child, usually within 6 weeks from commencing the proceedings. If the motion is sustained, the verdict is provisionally enforceable, which means that the parent that came to the Czech Republic with the child must return with the child to the place of usual residence or deliver the child to the other parent immediately after the verdict is reached (or by the deadline stipulated in the verdict).
a) Return proceedings abroad:
Return proceedings conducted abroad are governed by the procedural rules of the given country of proceedings. In the case of a country bound by the Convention, there is a central authority similar to the Czech Office for International Legal Protection of Children.
What are the costs for return proceedings?
In the case of return proceedings conducted in countries which are parties to the Convention, no fees are applied. Each central authority and court bears its own costs and cannot request them from the petitioner. In the case of abduction to a foreign country, it is generally necessary to cooperate with a local legal representative and thus pay the costs for their services.