Child Abduction
Child Abduction

Estranged couples and international child   
abduction: a brief introduction to the legal remedies
available in Spain

Warning: The information set out below is a general guideline provided by DOMENECH ABOGADOS. Specific advice should be sought before any action in reliance on it is taken, as explained more fully in this website's legal notice.

Spain is a signatory to the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international treaty granting legal remedies in situations where a child is wrongfully taken from his country of habitual residence or is not sent back to the custodial parent after, for example, a holiday with his other parent, or where contact rights of the non-custodial parent are not being respected.

Under this Convention, each signatory country binds itself to enforce immediate measures to restore the child to his country of habitual residence or to ensure that a parent's rights of contact with his child are respected. Unfortunately, however, Spain is a notoriously bad applier of the Convention.

An incoming Convention application can be publicly funded in Spain by directing it to the Spanish central authority designated under the Convention, which in turn uses Spanish state lawyers to present the case in the relevant Spanish court. The central authority does its best, of course, but its staff and funds are over-stretched. Parents using this route cannot expect an easy daily check on the progress of their case, and language difficulties are likely to arise.

If, alternatively, a direct approach to the Spanish courts is made by means of a privately funded lawyer specialising in these sorts of cases and who is language proficient, it still may not be in the power of that lawyer to avoid court delays. In this regard, Spanish practice (of having Convention cases dealt with by overloaded first instance courts) falls far short of, for example, the English position of having all Convention cases heard by one of seventeen High Court judges. Cases such as that in the USA of the Cuban boy, Elian González, have raised public awareness of abduction cases worldwide, but there is still much to be done if Convention cases are to be dealt with efficiently in Spain.

Obviously, prevention and reacting promptly may be invaluable in these cases. International associations like the UK charity "Reunite" - with which DOMENECH ABOGADOS cooperates in Spain - provide guidance to parents who find themselves affected by abduction issues and can also supply easy-to-follow abduction prevention packs for any parents who fear their child may be at risk of abduction.

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