In practice, the Hague Convention is well known as a means by which a child can be returned to their home country when they have been abducted. However, a less well known provision is that the Convention can also be used to establish contact.
Article 21 of the Convention makes provision for rights of access which confers rights to be able to take a child for a limited period of time to a country other than that child’s habitual residence. The same Article allows a person to approach the country where the child is in the same way as if an application for their return would be made.
In England and Wales, any applicant for such an Order also have the benefit of non-means, non-merits tested funding meaning that free legal advice can be obtained.
Some of the considerations for applicants in these proceedings include the issue of travel abroad, funding of that travel, periods of time and when these are to occur (if outside of school holidays), visa applications and also whether the Courts in England and Wales should consider whether issues of domestic abuse should be considered.
Article 21 provides an important tool for parents from other countries in making applications and continuing contact with their child who resides in another country. They provide also a means by which an application for contact can be made in England and Wales with the benefit of legal aid.