Marguerite C. Walter


Toward the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Concerning Transnational Parent-Child Contact

Marguerite C. Walter

Currently there is no broadly applicable international legal instrument that protects ongoing contact between noncustodial parents and their children across national borders. Although the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction provides strong protection for rights of custody, it grants relatively weak protection for rights of contact. This absence of protection for rights of contact both undermines the goal of preventing abduction and leaves unresolved the question of how to ensure the continuity of relationships between noncustodial parents and their children. In particular, parents and courts involved in relocation cases have no assurance that orders for visitation and other forms of parent-child contact will be fully recognized and enforced once the residence parent and child have relocated. In this Note, Marguerite C. Walter argues that a protocol providing for the recognition and enforcement of contact decisions by states adhering to the Abduction Convention would provide a relatively simple and immediate solution to the problem. Such a protocol would provide for the automatic recognition and enforcement of contact decisions when certain criteria are met. The most important of those criteria would be that the order emanate from the authorities of the child’s habitual residence no earlier than six months to one year prior to the recognition request, and that all parties have been given the opportunity to be heard in the original proceeding. In addition, the protocol should provide for interjudicial communication, a strictly construed emergency exception to mandatory recognition and enforcement, and specific sanctions for failure to recognize and enforce a contact decision meeting the criteria set forth.