Parental abduction of children to Russia

Source: Jewish Tribune

On Thursday, 28 July 2011, the Russian Federation deposited its instrument of accession to the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Convention will enter into force for the Russian Federation on 1 October 2011.  This means that for the first time ever, if a parent abducts her child to Russia, the parent left behind may be able to successfully apply to a Russian court to have the child returned and do so on a reasonably expedited basis.

Up until now, no Russian court would do so since under Russian law, even a child born in Canada to a Russian parent was deemed to be ‘Russian’ no matter how old that child may be.  In many cases, abducted children would be snatched from their Canadian homes, their schools, friends, relatives and the parent left behind in Ontario. The typical scenario occurs during a planned vacation when a Russian born mother announces she is leaving for a brief vacation with a child to visit her family in  Moscow or St. Petersburg.  Once there the mother (or father) announces that she (or he)  is not returning.  Moreover, she immediately obtains a court order from a Russian court for custody. A Canadian lawyer might then obtain a Canadian court order for custody in Canada and an Order for the return of the child, contact the RCMP and even retain a lawyer in the Russian Federation.  However, in the past, obtaining such a court Order in Ontario was useless as it would not be enforced by any Russian domestic court since the child would be considered Russian, no matter how many years he or she lived in Canada, and even if the child was born in Toronto.  It was only useful in the event the child ever left Russia since it could be enforced by the international police, INTERPOL.

If a parental abduction now takes place the parent in Canada should retain a competent Family Law lawyer in Ontario.  He or she would then call the Ontario Government at (416) 240-2484 to enforce the Hague Convention Treaty for the international abduction of children   The Ontario Government would contact the Russian Government which would notify the appropriate court in Russia.  The lawyer in Ontario would retain a lawyer in Russia to make the court application to return the children in accordance with the Hague Convention and help draft the court documents.   A parent “left behind” normally only has one year from the date of the abduction to file an application for the return of a child, but there are exceptions to the rule. There are also “defenses” to such an application.  For instance, if the child is old enough and insists that he or she does not wish to return to Canada or if the parent who left with the child  can prove that there was violence, the foreign Courts may possibly not enforce the Hague Convention. But these are defenses that do not normally succeed because in international family law such issues should be decided where the child normally resides.

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One thought on “Parental abduction of children to Russia

  1. Unfortunately, the convention’s application is highly doubtful since Russia is likely to find any excuse not to enforce requests to return children to their habitual domicile after being abducted to Russia.
    Russian courts are expected to take the side of Russian parents, as noted in this useful commentary:
    And Russian abductors are already playing the defense card of Russia being the only safe place for children, as in the reported case of Marianne Grin, ignoring the Hague procedure for making those determinations in the country where the abduction occurred.
    So for now, it’s really a phase to wait and see how serious Russia is.

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