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Multiple Perspectives on Battered Mothers and their Children Fleeing to the United States for Safety: A Study of Hague Convention Cases

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2010
405 pages
This study examined the situations of women who experienced domestic violence in another country and came to the United States in an effort to protect themselves and their children, only to face civil actions in U.S. State or Federal courts for child abduction under international legal agreements.
In cases in which the left-behind fathers filed Hague Convention petitions to have their children returned, the study found that the mothers and children had often experienced severe violence from these men. The study also found that mothers were unable to access needed resources in their home countries, so their only recourse was to take their children and seek safety and support from family members living in the United States. Further, the study found that U.S. authorities and courts were not receptive to the safety concerns expressed by the mothers. Another key finding was that mothers and children faced great hardship after a Hague Convention decision; legal fees and representation were major barriers for women in responding to Hague Convention petitions. The study found that Hague Convention decisions have not taken into account two decades of research on child exposure to domestic violence when deciding on what constitutes grave risk for a child. The study concludes that safety for battered mothers and their children facing Hague petitions requires training for attorneys and judges on both domestic violence and the law that pertains to Hague Convention cases. For this study, researchers interviewed battered mothers around the world, their attorneys, and their husbands' attorneys. Published judicial decisions were examined in cases involving the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, with attention to those cases that involved allegations of domestic violence by one parent against the other. Twenty-two mothers who responded to Hague petitions in U.S. courts were interviewed. 4 figures, 23 tables, references, cited legal cases, and appended study instruments

Date Published: December 1, 2010