Emory International Law Review


Deborah Reece


The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction requires signatory countries to hold prompt hearings for the return of wrongfully removed children back to their habitual residence. There are five defenses to return provided in the Convention. For taking parents escaping domestic violence with their children, the most typical defense offered to defeat a return petition is “grave risk of harm.” Courts vacillate on whether exposure to family violence amounts to a grave risk to a child. Further, some courts require consideration of “ameliorative measures” in an effort to repatriate children to abusive households, instead of denying a return. However, the body of social science literature studying the effects of exposure to family violence underscores the profound harm to children who are witness to family abuse and belies any safety measures concocted to return them to the situs of harm. Accordingly, the Convention and its implementing legislation should be amended to include language which contemplates the damage to a child exposed to family violence and courts should not be mandated to devise methods to return them to the abusive environment.