The abduction of a child by a parent is a very serious matter, especially when the child is taken to another country. This has been recognised internationally by Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which provides a framework for the return of children if they are taken to another country.
To apply under the Hague Convention for the return of your child you can either contact the authorities in your own country, or apply to the New Zealand Secretary of Justice, or apply to the NZ courts (see below).
To determine whether the Hague Convention can be used to secure the return of a child from New Zealand you must establish whether your resident country is a "contracting State" with New Zealand, which means a state that is a party to the Convention and that has entered into a reciprocal agreement with New Zealand.
To find out whether your country of residence is a "contracting State" with New Zealand, you should contact the Treaty Officer at the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The obligations of countries that are parties to the Hague Convention are administered by each country's "Central Authority". New Zealand's "Central Authority" is the Secretary for Justice. You may use one of three methods to begin proceedings for the return of your child:
Your application should be in writing and should contain:
If your application is complete, a District Court Judge or Registrar will issue a warrant authorising a Police officer or a social worker to take possession of the child.
The other party may apply to the court for it to refuse to order the child's return. To do this the other party must make out one of the following grounds:
But even if one of these grounds is established the judge has a discretion to order the child to be returned.
If your country of residence has not contracted with New Zealand, you will need to apply to the New Zealand Family Court, who will determine whether it is in the child's best interests to be returned.
The Hague Convention's approach separates the issues of return and custody. The Convention assumes that the country of the child's usual residence is best suited to deal with the issue of who should have custody of the child.