The Department of State has noted some improvements in the performance of the Romanian Central Authority over the past year, especially with respect to the level of responsiveness to requests for status updates and case information. Hague cases continue to face lengthy court delays, although there have been some improvements in recent months.
Many of the problems cited in the last report continued in 2004, especially the use of psychological evaluations, an apparent lack of familiarity with the Hague Convention that results in judges and attorneys treating cases as custody determinations, and judicial determinations of resettlement that result because of cases languishing in the Romanian court system. Delays in case processing on the part of a foreign government should not penalize children or left-behind parents. The burden of proof lies on the taking parent to prove that the child is in fact re-habituated, and the child should still be ordered returned if the taking parent cannot demonstrate that the child is now integrated into that culture in such a way that his/her habitual residence has changed.
Romania passed Hague Convention implementing legislation in September 2004. This legislation should improve Hague case processing, particularly because it centralizes the hearing of Hague cases in family courts, allowing the development of judicial expertise. Under the provisions of this new law, Hague abduction cases are to be tried in the Child and Family Department of the Bucharest Court by family law judges who are trained in the provisions of the Convention. The law became effective on December 27, 2004. Pending cases have been or are in the process of being transferred to the new court. The Ministry of Justice is in the process of drafting internal regulations for the processing of Hague Convention cases according to the new law. The Department does have some concerns about the consistency of specific articles of the implementing law with the Hague Convention. For example, the mandated involvement of psychologists in all cases raises concerns, as psychological reports can delay decisions and inevitably go to the merits of custody. Since the implementing legislation was passed at the end of this reporting period, we will be alert to the effects the new legislation might have on pending and future U.S. Hague cases.