Egypt: Family Law


Notes on Egypt and International Child Abduction

Jeremy D. Morley

1. Egypt has not signed Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

2. The removal of a child by the non-custodial parent to or within Egypt is not a crime in Egypt unless the child is subject to Egyptian court-ordered travel restrictions.

3. A left-behind parent must work within the Egyptian court system in order to obtain legal custody of the child in Egypt.

4. Egyptian mothers of children born to a non-Egyptian father may request an Egyptian passport for the child from any Egyptian consulate.

5. Foreign custody orders are not generally recognized in Egypt, and will not be given any weight unless they are in compliance with Sharia law.

6. Sharia law as it is applied in Egypt primarily favors the mother. Mothers are most commonly considered to be the appropriate custodians of children up to age 15.  Normally, if custody disputes arise between parents, Egyptian courts uphold presumptive custody.

7. If the mother loses her presumptive custody the courts recognize an order of preference of alternate adult custodians with priority given to the mother’s family in the following order:  maternal grandmother or great-grandmother; paternal grandmother or great-grandmother; maternal aunt; paternal aunt; maternal niece; paternal niece.  Only if these relatives do not exist, will the right of custody shift to a male.

8. By law, visitation depends on the willingness of the custodial parent.

9. In October 2003, the U.S. and Egypt signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that purportedly confirms both countries’ commitment to facilitating parental access to children in the other country.  However it does nothing but provide for the possibility of some access in Egypt. It does not address international child abduction. In practice it has no teeth and is relatively meaningless.

10. As of May 2010 there were 27 active cases in the Secretary of State’s Office of Children’s Issues of American children abducted to Egypt. The Secretary of State has no power to get them back.

11. As of May 2010, not one abducted child had been returned to the US from Egypt within the prior two years through judicial or official means.