Foreign Affairs:

Changes to Germany's Implementation of the Hague Child Abduction Convention

GAO-01-423: Published: Apr 10, 2001. Publicly Released: Apr 10, 2001.

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Jess T. Ford
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During the last several years, the United States has criticized Germany's handling of international parental child abduction cases that have been filed by U.S. parents. Both the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government have criticized Germany for not fully and consistently following the criteria and procedures established under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which governs such cases. The primary criticisms include the inappropriate use by German courts of certain provisions of the Hague Convention to justify retaining abducted children in Germany, the length of time it has taken to adjudicate cases, and the failure to enforce left-behind parents' visitation rights. GAO examined the actions that Germany has taken or plans to take to reform its handling of international parental child abduction cases and how these actions may affect U.S. cases. GAO found that German authorities have pledged their commitment to take steps to improve the handling of Hague Convention cases and Germany has taken action to address two of the three primary criticisms. Germany has established a task force to monitor German reforms and active cases, initiated efforts to build expertise among judges deciding Hague Convention cases, and changed its processes to accelerate case handling. Despite these reforms, Germany has not acted to improve enforcement of visitation rights granted by German courts. The German courts' reluctance to enforce visitation orders is hampering Germany's efforts to improve its handling of Hague Convention cases.

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