The Department of State considers international parental child abduction, as well as the welfare and protection of U.S. citizen children taken overseas, to be important, serious matters. The highest priority is given to the welfare of children who have been victimized by international abductions.
Hague Abduction Convention
Both Sweden and the United States are parties the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention). The Hague Abduction Convention is the primary civil law mechanism for parents seeking the return of the children from other treaty partner countries. Countries that are party to the Convention have agreed that a child who was living in one Convention country, and who has been removed to or retained in another Convention country in violation of the left-behind parent’s custodial rights, shall be promptly returned. Once the child has been returned, the custody dispute can then be resolved, if necessary, in the courts of that jurisdiction. The Convention does not address who should have custody of the child; it addresses where the custody case should be heard.
To date, the United States partners with 68 other countries under the Hague Abduction Convention (view the list of Hague Abduction countries). Each country that is party to the Convention has designated a Central Authority, a specific government office, to carry out specialized Convention duties. Central Authorities communicate with each other and they assist parents in filing applications for return of or for access to their children under the Convention. The Central Authority for the United States is the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues. The Central Authority for Sweden is the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (“Utrikesdepartementet”), Department for Consular Affairs and Civil Law.
For left-behind parents seeking the return of their children, one of the biggest sources of frustration is that courts in many other countries do not take into account the prior decisions made by courts in the United States. A custody order in the United States can be meaningless abroad. When confronting this challenge, keep in mind the following three things:
1) Each country is a sovereign nation. Sovereign nations cannot interfere with each other’s legal systems, judiciaries, or law enforcement;
2) Generally every country only has jurisdiction within its own territory and over people present within its borders; and
3) Although court orders from other countries may be recognized in the United States under the Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), this is rarely true in reverse – U.S. court orders are not generally recognized in other countries.
Central Authority in Sweden
Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Department for Consular Affairs and Civil Law
103 39 STOCKHOLM
Tel.: +46 (8) 405 1000 (in case of emergency: +46 (8) 405 5001)
Fax: +46 (8) 723 1176