Bringing Sean Home - The U.S, Brazil, and the Ineffectiveness of the Hague Convention

The Hague Convention is an international treaty designed to return abducted children to their parents. Most of us thought that it worked pretty well. After all, the Convention itself is fairly clear. It states that if a child is taken away from someone with rights of custody, that child must be returned if this person applies under the Hague Convention within the first year of this child's abduction. But, the story of David Goldman and his son Sean changed this impression.

In June of 2004 Sean's mother, and David's wife, Bruna, took Sean to Brazil on what was supposed to be a two week vacation. She never returned. Ever since that day, David has been trying to bring Sean home. Unfortunately, the Hague Convention did not help him for many years. After several years and many court appearances in Brazil and the United States, David was not allowed to even see his son, let alone bring him home. It took the involvement of the American Congress, the American Senate, thousands of protestors and supporters in the United States and Brazil, and even Barak Obama, for David to get Sean back. Thankfully, Sean is now home with his father, over five years later.

This story came as a shock to many people all over the world. People who knew about the Hague Convention were particularly surprised to find out how ineffectual it can be. Many family law lawyers see the Hague Convention as a kind of safe guard. When clients ask if they should worry about their children going on vacation out of the country with their other parent, lawyers often tell them that if the country they are traveling to is a signatory of the Hague, then they should be able to have the child returned.

Sure, there were always problems with the Hague, such as when parents do not know where their children have been taken and thus cannot apply to have their children returned. But cases like the Goldman's, where a child is taken from his parent to a country that is supposed to abide by the Hague Convention, where that parent has the money to attend court proceedings in this other country, where that parent does everything he legally can to have his child returned, yet is let down again and again, really open people's eyes to how ineffective the Hague Convention can be.

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