Volume 79, Number 1

April 2004

Federal Court Abstention and the Hague Child Abduction Convention

Ion Hazzikostas

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction, implemented in the United States through the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, represents a global effort to stem the harmful practice of parents resorting to abduction across national borders to circumvent adverse custody rulings. The Abduction Convention is a mutual agreement to return wrongfully abducted children to their nations of habitual residence for all further custodial proceedings, thereby restoring the status quo prior to the abduction and removing a major incentive for this harmful practice. Congress expressly provided for original and concurrent federal jurisdiction over these petitions for return. In recent years, however, a number of federal district courts have been abstaining from hearing such claims where there is already a custody proceeding ongoing. This practice has the effect of forcing a plaintiff, usually a foreigner, to litigate these sensitive matters in a potentially hostile state forum. In this Note, Ion Hazzikostas argues that district courts have erred in their abstention in most such cases, to the detriment of the same children the Abduction Convention was enacted to protect. A more nuanced standard would better serve the interests of the Convention by removing needless barriers to return, while still limiting the potential for either party to gain an unfair advantage through jurisdictional manipulation.