The Effect of COVID-19 on International Child Abduction Cases

AuthorRobert G. Spector, Melissa A. Kucinski
Pages268-280
The Effect of COVID-19 on International
Child Abduction Cases
ROBERT G. SPECTOR* & MELISSA A. KUCINSKI**
Introduction
Some of the highest conict litigation in the United States revolves
around situations where one parent unilaterally relocates his or her
child to another country. The emotions are high and the legal issues are
complicated, but now, more than ever, the practical issues are front and
center. Since the advent of a global pandemic in 2020, parents have been
faced with border closures, canceled ights, health risks, and court delays,
all of which have impacted the legal processes to secure the prompt return
of their children.
Most U.S. international child abduction litigation involves the Hague
Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague
Abduction Convention)1 and its implementing legislation, the International
Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA).2 U.S. federal and state courts
have concurrent jurisdiction to decide a request for a child’s return under the
Hague Abduction Convention.3 The Hague Abduction Convention operates
to promptly return a child to the country of that child’s habitual residence.4
To obtain an order for the return of a child, the petitioner must prove that
the child was wrongfully removed from, or retained outside of, that child’s
“habitual residence” and that the petitioner had “rights of custody” that
*Robert G. Spector is the Glenn R. Watson Chair and Centennial Professor of Law Emeritus
at the University of Oklahoma Law Center.
** Melissa A. Kucinski is a private practice family lawyer and mediator in Washington, D.C.
1. Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Oct. 25, 1980,
T.I.A.S. No. 11670, 1343 U.N.T.S. 89 [hereinafter Hague Abduction Convention].
2. International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA), 22 U.S.C. §§ 9001–11.
3. Id. § 9003(a).
4. Hague Abduction Convention, supra note 1, arts. 1, 3, 12.

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