03Mar/10

Chilean Family Law

CHILE, CHILD ABDUCTION AND THE HAGUE

Adapted from report of Graciela I. Rodriguez-Ferrand

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was ratified by Chile on February 23, 1994. Chile made a special declaration stating that article 3 of the Convention will be interpreted in accordance to its domestic legislation regarding child custody, which applies until a child reaches 18 years of age.

This means that, if an 18 year old with permanent residence in Chile, is wrongfully taken abroad, the Central Authority or courts of that country will have to interpret such an action as illegal, under the Convention, despite the child being older than 16 years of age.

Domestic Laws and Regulations Implementing the Hague Convention

The Central Authority for the Convention in Chile is the Corporacion de Asistencia Judicial de la Región Metropolitana of the Ministry of Justice. The Auto Acordado of the Supreme Court, which provides for the domestic procedural rules for the implementation of the Convention, was issued on November 3, 1998. A Chilean Supreme Court decision stated that article 11 of the Convention requires that the domestic court apply an expedited procedure to solve return cases under the Convention, but not to grant the petition without hearing the side of the abducting parent or without considering any evidence. This would constitute a clear violation of the due process of law guaranteed under the Chilean Constitution, which provides that any court decision should be based on a prior due process.

A. Return Requested from Abroad

The Central Authority has only administrative and informational functions, as the judiciary will always decide on the return of the child. Once an application for return has been received, the procedure before the Central Authority is governed by the Convention’s provisions.

If a child’s return is not possible during the preliminary stage, the petition must be submitted to the competent court. The Central Authority will provide the competent court with a general background on the petition and will also offer its assistance to the court during the proceedings.

Once the judicial stage has been established, the Central Authority will assist the Court and will be at the parties’ disposal to provide any information necessary for the implementation or application of the Convention in order to secure the best interest of the child.

The implementing provisions issued by the Supreme Court in November 1998 and amended in 2002 provide specific rules for the application of the Convention in Chile. The procedure begins with a petition before the Minors’ court of the alleged domicile of the minor. The Minors’ court will take all the measures necessary to locate the child. The court should not request any additional formality or certification of documents, except for an official translation of the documents submitted with the petition if they are not in Spanish and all the required documents set forth in article 8, such as identification documents for the child, the petitioner, and the person allegedly retaining the child. As soon as the petition is entered, the court should secure that the minor be located and once located not be moved.

Action on the petition needs to be taken within 24 hours of its submission, setting up a hearing for the individual retaining the child and the petitioner and his attorney within 5 days of the notice being served by the Carabineros (Chilean Police) or a Court officer. The child must also be present and heard at the hearing. If the service of notice is not successfully performed through this procedure, the petition must be assigned to the Public Defender, who will then assume the representation of the absentee party.

The objective of the hearing is to determine if the child is in the country and if there are any grounds, based on those listed in the Convention, for rejecting the release of the child. Evidence should be produced during the hearing. However, the court may order further investigation for more evidence, and this must be submitted within 15 days otherwise the petition will be rejected. The evidence so produced will be interpreted by the court according to conciencia (according to common sense based on the capacity to distinguish right and wrong.)

A final decision must be rendered within 5 days of the hearing or the completion of the evidence period. This decision may only be appealed within 5 days of its notice. The Court of Appeals will make a decision, without hearing arguments, within 5 days. All other court resolutions may not be appealed.

When the minor’s residence has not been located, the Chilean Central Authority will inform Interpol, the agency in charge of locating the minor in question.

B. Return Requested from Chile

The petitioner must submit a completed application of return to the Central Authority. These forms include all the information necessary to locate the child, such as identification information concerning the child and the person who has taken the child, the child’s date of birth, the reasons for claiming the return, and information on the probable location of the child. A copy of the judicial decision or agreement on the custody of the child may also be attached. Seeking legal counsel is recommended in order to complete the form, although this is not required. In case the petition is addressed to a non-Spanish speaking country, the forms must be submitted in English and Spanish.

The Central Authority will evaluate the viability of the petition, once all the required documents have been submitted. If the case is admitted, the Central Authority will send the return and visitation petition to the Central Authority of the requested country. The proceedings abroad will depend on the domestic regulations of the other country’s Central Authority, together with the procedural norms applied by the competent courts. In many cases the petitioner will have to hire a private attorney in the requested country. If the petitioner cannot afford to hire a private attorney, he may qualify under Chilean law to receive free legal advice and also become eligible for such assistance abroad.)

The petitioner will be kept informed by the Chilean Central Authority about the status of his case, since both Central Authorities will contact each other on a continuing basis to follow up on the case.

Domestic Laws Regarding Child Abduction and Parental Visitation

Under the Civil Code, the parent who does not have the custody of his or her child may not be deprived of the right, nor exempt of the obligation, of having direct and regular contact with the child.

Parental visitation rights will be exercised according to a schedule agreed upon by the parent who has custody or according to a court established visitation schedule convenient to the child. This right may only be suspended or restricted when a court has established that it is in the best interest of the child.

Once custody has been judicially assigned, the parent who has taken the child must surrender his or her custody. If he refuses to do so within the judicially determined time frame, or if he  infringes on the other parent’s visitation rights, judicially established under article 229 of the Civil Code, he may be arrested for up to 15 days or be subject to a proportional fine. The arrest may be extended for up to 30 days in case of recidivism.

The Law on Minors also provides specific requirements for a minor to leave the country. If the custody of the child was not judicially assigned to one of the parents or a third person, then, the minor may not leave the country without both parents’ authorization, or the authorization of the parent who recognized the child.

If the custody of the child was judicially assigned to one of the parents or a third person, the child may not leave the country without his authorization.  If visitation rights were judicially determined under article 229 of the Civil Code, the parent whose visitation rights were so determined will also have to authorize the child’s travel.

The authorization required will have to be instrumented in a public instrument or a private document duly notarized.

Court System and Structure – Courts Handling the Hague Convention

When the return request originates outside of Chile and there is no voluntary return of the child, the competent court for return proceedings under the Convention will be the Minors’ court with jurisdiction in the presumed child’s residence. Only the final decision may be appealed to the respective Court of Appeals and, if admissible, to the Supreme Court.

The Chilean courts have applied the Convention in a number of cases. But they reached the Supreme Court in only a few cases. One such case involved two girls born in 1998 and 1999, daughters of Chilean nationals living in Sweden. While divorce proceedings were underway in a Swedish court and the children were in both parents’ custody, according to Swedish law, the mother requested court authorization to travel with the girls to Chile. The father opposed the authorization, requesting at the same time exclusive custody of the children. However, without any authorization and without the court’s decision on the matter, the mother traveled with the girls to Chile. Immediately thereafter, the Swedish court granted the exclusive custody to the father.

The Minors’ court concluded that the purpose of the procedure set forth in the Convention is not to assign legal custody of children, but to determine if the children were illegally taken from Sweden by the mother and if there were any grounds under article 13 of the Convention that prevented the children from returning to their permanent residence. The return of the children was ordered, because it was concluded they had been taken from Sweden to Chile by the mother without any authorization from the court and with the opposition of the father and pending a court’s decision on custody. The mother appealed before the Supreme Court, which reversed the lower court’s decision and refused to grant the return of the children. The decision stated that it was in the best interest of the children to remain in Chile with their mother, because of their very young age and their psychological and social connection with their maternal grandparents, as well as the cultural environment. It concluded that the children’s return to Sweden would “expose them to psychological and physical risks” under article 13 of the Convention.

According to some scholars, this decision does not provide a correct interpretation of the purpose of the Convention, which is, the immediate return of the child to his permanent residence, whose courts are competent to decide on the custody of the children when they have been illegally taken abroad by one of the parents. The decision rejects the children’s return by granting custody of the children to the mother, which is clearly not the purpose of the Convention.

In another decision, the Minors’ court of Santiago, confirmed by the Court of Appeals of Santiago, ordered the return of a minor who was taken by his mother to Chile from Argentina, where he was a permanent resident. His mother violated an Argentine court order prohibiting his removal from the country. This court order was issued in a domestic violence proceeding involving both parents.  Both the lower court and the court of Appeals agreed to grant the return request based on the mother’s clear violation of the visitation rights and the judicial order prohibiting the removal of the minor from Argentina.

The same lower court, in another case, refused to order the return of children to France, where they were residing with the mother after her divorce. Although the divorce decree decided that the custody of the children was to be shared by both parents, they agreed that the children would reside with the mother with a specific visitation schedule for the father. However, the court also decided that in the event the mother decided to reside in Chile, she should request the court’s authorization. She did so, and although this authorization was rejected, she moved to live permanently in Chile with her children.

Taking into account the “best interest of the children” and their refusal to return to France, the lower court decided that, despite the children being illegally taken from France to Chile, it was in their best interest to remain in Chile, where they were already well-adjusted to their family and social environment.

Law Enforcement System

On June 11, 2003, a National Registry of Information about Missing Minors was created under the National Program for the Prevention of the Abduction and Trafficking of Minors and Crimes Against Their Identity, created by Resolution 284/02, within the Ministry of Justice, Security, and Human Rights.

The Registry will establish a database that will collect all information related to cases of children that have been abducted or missing. The database will be available on the Internet and will include all the information needed to locate them and to check on the status of the search.48

Both parents are required under the law not only to authorize the minor’s travel abroad, but also to authorize the issuance of a passport to a minor. The withdrawal of a passport, as well as the denial or restriction on the issuance of visas, may only be ordered by a court. Therefore, in order for a minor who is not traveling with both parents to leave the country, he will have to present his valid passport, as well as the absent parent’s authorization to travel, to the border authorities. Administrative measures and court orders may become ineffective if the border controls in the country are not duly carried out. This is true in the case of land boundaries, because of their length. However, border controls are highly effective with regard to air carriers and ferries.

When a court issues an order prohibiting travel outside the country, the order is given to border authorities, including the Federal Police, Immigration, Interpol, and Aeronautic Police.

03Mar/10

Canadian Family Law

The Law Office of Jeremy D. Morley handles many international family law cases that concern Canada. The firm always acts with local counsel in Canada as appropriate.

Jeremy D. Morley formerly taught in the law school at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, Canada.

His office handles many Canadian matters including:

Divorce issues that have a Canadian element.

International child abduction to and from Canada.

International prenuptial agreements that concern Canada.


CANADA – International Child Abduction

The following is an extract from Canada’s answers to a questionnaire submitted by the Hague Conference on Private International Law concerning the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction:

Legislation and Court Orders

1.     Please give details of any civil legislative provisions which exist in your State which may act as a deterrent to a potential abductor, or may have a preventive effect.

Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction

The Hague Convention, as ratified by Canada in 1983, and now applicable in all provincial and territorial jurisdictions of Canada.

Divorce Act (federal)

Federally, subsection 16(6) of the Divorce Act authorizes the court to make an order for a definite or indefinite period or until the happening of a specified event and may impose such other terms, conditions or restrictions in connection therewith as it thinks fit and just.  This allows for very clear and specific conditions to be included in an order – such as travel restrictions, deposing of passport with the court etc that may have a preventive effect.

Provincial legislation — common law (general and specifics)

At the provincial /territorial level, it is probably worth noting that in Ontario for example, one of the purposes of Part III of Ontario’s Children’s Law Reform Act is specifically noted in section 19(c) as being: to discourage the abduction of children as an alternative to the determination of custody rights by due process.  Children’s Law Reform Act, R.S.O. 1990,c. C12

Similarly, to provide for more effective enforcement of custody and access orders as between the provinces of Canada, provinces have attempted to reflect in their legislation, provisions of the Uniform Extra-Provincial Custody Orders Enforcement Act that was adopted by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada.

Autorité centrale du Québec — civil law

L’article 46 du Code de procédure civile du Québec stipule que «Les tribunaux et les juges ont tous les pouvoirs nécessaires á l’exercice de leur compétence.

Ils peuvent, en tout temps et en toutes matières, tant en première instance qu’en appel, prononcer des ordonnances de sauvegarde des droits des parties, pour le temps et aux conditions qu’ils déterminent. De plus, ils peuvent, dans les affaires dont ils sont saisis, prononcer, même d’office, des injonctions ou des réprimandes, supprimer des écrits ou les déclarer calomnieux, et rendre toutes ordonnances appropriées pour pourvoir aux cas où la loi n’a pas prévu de remède spécifique». Ainsi, plusieurs ordonnances s’avèrent possibles en vertu du Code civil du Québec ou de la Loi sur le divorce (voir réponses á la question 3).

Également, le défendeur d’une requête, peut présenter une demande de cautionnement selon l’article 153 du Code de procédure civile du Québec. Le dépôt d’un cautionnement adéquat sera confisqué en cas d’enlèvement, ce cautionnement devant procurer les liquidités nécessaires pour défrayer les coûts qui seront nécessairement encourus par le parent victime pour localiser l’enfant et son retour au Québec, le cas échéant.

En vertu de l’article 49 du Code de procédure civile du Québec, «Les tribunaux et les juges peuvent prononcer des condamnations contre toute personne qui se rend coupable d’outrage au tribunal». L’article 51 stipule également que «celui qui se rend coupable d’outrage au tribunal est passible d’une amende n’excédant pas cinq mille dollars ou d’un emprisonnement pour une période d’au plus un an. L’emprisonnement pour refus d’obtempérer á une ordonnance ou á une injonction peut être imposé derechef jusqu’á ce que la personne condamnée ait obéi».

Manitoba Central Authority: Details of any civil legislative provisions which may act as a deterrent to a potential abductor, or may have a preventative effect include:

The Child Custody Enforcement Act, R.S.M. 1987, c.C360:

    • can be invoked without the existence of formal reciprocal arrangements with another jurisdiction.
    • provides that a Manitoba court shall enforce an extra-provincial custody order and make such orders as it considers necessary to give effect to the order unless it is satisfied that the child affected by the order did not at the time the order was made have a real and substantial connection with the province, state or country in which the order was made.
    • empowers the Manitoba court to substitute its own custody order if the child does not currently have a real and substantive connection with the jurisdiction that pronounced it, or all of the parties are habitually resident in Manitoba, or the child would suffer serious harm if returned to the custodial person named in the order.
    • allows the Manitoba court to pronounce such orders as are necessary to give a foreign custody order effect.
    • allows the Manitoba court to pronounce non-molestation orders against a respondent and requires the posting of a bond or signing of a recognizance.
    • allows the Manitoba court to authorize a person to apprehend the child in question, with or without notice, to give effect to the court order.
    • allows the Manitoba court to direct law enforcement officers or agency to locate, apprehend and deliver the child to the person named under the order, and in order to do so, to enter and search any place he has reasonable and probable grounds for believing that the child may be.
    • allows the Manitoba court to make orders to prevent the removal of a child or to secure the return of a child by ordering:
      • a transfer of property to a trustee
      • maintenance payments to be made to a trustee
      • the posting of a bond, with or without sureties, and/or
      • delivery of the person’s or the child’s passport and other travel documents
    • The Family Maintenance Act, R.S.M. 1987, c.F20:
      • allows the court to order that it be provided with information as to the whereabouts of a person to enable an application to be brought for custody or enforcement of a custody order.
    • Queen’s Bench Rules, Man. Reg. 553/88:
      • Section 60(10) provides for civil contempt proceedings which may be taken to enforce a custody order.
    • Flexibility exists in The Family Maintenance Act and the Divorce Act, R.S. 1985, c.3, to allow the court to include terms and conditions (e.g. supervised access, limits on mobility, notice provisions, etc.) that can prevent abductions.

2. Please give details of any criminal legislative provisions which exist in your State which may act as a deterrent to a potential abductor, or may have a preventive effect.

See Sections 282 and 283 of the Criminal Code below. In addition, subsection 57(2) of the Criminal Code makes it an offence for anyone who, for the purpose of procuring a passport for himself or any other person or for the purpose of procuring any material alteration or addition to any such passport, makes a written or an oral statement that he/she knows is false or misleading.

Autorité centrale du Québec: L’enlèvement d’un enfant de moins de 14 ans par un des parents constitue un acte criminel au Canada en vertu des articles 282 et 283 du Code criminel passible d’un emprisonnement maximal de dix ans.

Article 282

      1. [Enlèvement en contravention avec une ordonnance de garde]

        Quiconque, étant le père, la mère, le tuteur ou une personne ayant la garde ou la charge légale d’une personne âgée de moins de quatorze ans, enlève, entraîne, retient, reçoit, cache ou héberge cette personne contrairement aux dispositions d’une ordonnance rendue par un tribunal au Canada relativement á la garde de cette personne, avec l’intention de priver de la possession de celle-ci le père, la mère, le tuteur ou une autre personne ayant la garde ou la charge légale de cette personne, est coupable :

        a) soit d’un acte criminel et passible d’un emprisonnement maximal de dix ans ;

        b) soit d’une infraction punissable sur déclaration de culpabilité par procédure sommaire.

      2. [Croyance de l’accusé]

        Lorsqu’un chef d’accusation vise l’infraction prévue au paragraphe (1) et que celle-ci n’est pas prouvée du seul fait que l’accusé ne croyait pas qu’il existait une ordonnance de garde valide, ce dernier peut cependant être reconnu coupable de l’infraction prévue á l’article 283 s’il y a preuve de cette dernière.

Article 283

      1. [Enlèvement]

        a) soit d’un acte criminel et passible d’un emprisonnement maximal de dix ans;

        b) soit d’une infraction punissable sur déclaration de culpabilité par procédure sommaire.

      Quiconque, étant le père, la mère, le tuteur ou une personne ayant la garde ou la charge légale d’une personne âgée de moins de quatorze ans, enlève, entraîne, retient, reçoit, cache ou héberge cette personne, qu’il y ait ou non une ordonnance rendue par un tribunal au Canada relativement á la garde de cette personne, avec l’intention de priver de la possession de celle-ci le père, la mère, le tuteur ou une autre personne ayant la garde ou la charge légale de cette personne, est coupable:

      1. [Consentement du procureur général]

      Aucune poursuite ne peut être engagée en vertu du paragraphe (1) sans le consentement du procureur général ou d’un avocat qu’il mandate á cette fin.

      Dans plusieurs situations, le recours au système de justice criminel peut faciliter le travail de la police dans la recherche et la localisation d’un enfant.

      Au besoin, et lorsqu’il existe un traité avec le pays de refuge, une demande d’extradition peut être faite. Il faut savoir que le mandat d’arrestation ne vise pas de prime abord le retour de l’enfant enlevé mais plutôt la poursuite au criminel du parent ravisseur. Toutefois, le mandat d’arrestation est souvent la seule solution pour ramener un enfant qui se trouve dans un État non-signataire de la Convention de La Haye.

      S’il est important de rapporter le plus tôt possible l’enlèvement de l’enfant, cela ne signifie pas que la plainte va mener á une poursuite judiciaire pour enlèvement. Il faut également savoir que ce ne sont pas tous les pays de refuge qui considèrent l’enlèvement d’un enfant par un des parents comme un acte criminel et plusieurs d’entre eux n’extraderont pas le parent ravisseur s’il est citoyen de ce pays.

Manitoba Central Authority: Details of any criminal legislative provisions which may act as a deterrent to a potential abductor, or may have a preventative effect:

      • Criminal Code:
        • Section 127 makes it an offence for a person to disobey a custody or access order made under the Divorce Act.
        • Section 281 makes it an offence for a person who is not the parent, guardian or person having lawful care or charge of a person under 14 to unlawfully take, entice away, conceal, detain, receive or harbour that person with intent to deprive a parent or guardian or any other person who has the lawful care or charge of that person, of the possession of that person.
        • Section 282 makes it an offence for a parent or guardian or person having the lawful charge or care of a person under the age of 14 years to take, entice away, conceal, detain, receive or harbour that person in contravention of the custody provisions of a custody order in relation to that person made by a court anywhere in Canada with intent to deprive a parent or guardian or any other person who has the lawful care or charge of that person, of the possession of that person.
        • Section 283 makes it an offence for a parent, guardian or person having the lawful care or charge of a person under the age of 14 years to take, entice away, conceal, detain, receive or harbour that person, whether or not there is a custody order in relation to that person made by a court anywhere in Canada, with intent to deprive a parent or guardian, or any other person who has the lawful care or charge of that person, of the possession of that person.
      • The Family Maintenance Act
        • Section 50(1) creates a summary conviction offence for the breach of a custody or access order made under The Family Maintenance Act.

3. Please give details of any court orders which can be obtained during, for example, divorce or custody proceedings which prohibit, restrict or criminalise removal or retention of a child.

Federal: See question 2 above re: sections 282 and 283 of the Criminal Code.

Autorité centrale du Québec: En cas de menaces d’enlèvement, il est possible d’obtenir une modification du droit de visite, de sortie et d’hébergement déjá attribué au parent ravisseur potentiel :

a) soit pour en restreindre l’exercice en demandant, par exemple, la réduction de la durée de la période d’exercice de ces droits de visite ou en exigeant que les visites soient supervisées par le parent ou un organisme tiers, aviser les écoles et garderies des modalités de garde et des droits de visite;

b) soit pour en suspendre l’exercice;

c) soit pour en supprimer l’exercice;

d) soit pour faire dépendre l’exercice du droit de visite et d’hébergement de cet éventuel ravisseur, de l’exécution de l’une ou plusieurs des conditions suivantes:

      • interdiction de voyager seul avec l’enfant sans l’autorisation écrite des deux parents ou du tribunal;
      • dépôt á la Cour des passeports du parent ravisseur potentiel pendant l’exercice du droit de visite;
      • dépôt d’un cautionnement adéquat qui sera confisqué en cas d’enlèvement, ce cautionnement devant procurer les liquidités nécessaires pour défrayer les coûts qui seront nécessairement encourus par le parent victime pour localiser l’enfant et son retour au Québec, le cas échéant ;
      • si le parent titulaire du droit de visite est autorisé á exercer ce droit dans un État non désigné dont il est le citoyen, exiger l’exequatur ou la reconnaissance du jugement de garde québécois par le tribunal compétent de cet État ; permettre au parent demeuré au Québec et á l’enfant, de garder le contact par téléphone ou par courrier durant le séjour á l’étranger et convenir, au besoin, des jours et des heures d’appel. Ce moyen pourrait devenir une condition pour que le parent gardien autorise son enfant á se rendre en vacances á l’étranger ;
      • obtenir du parent titulaire du droit de visite qu’il reconnaisse la juridiction exclusive de la Cour supérieure du Québec dans toute matière relative á la garde et á l’exercice des droits de visite ;
      • si l’exercice du droit de visite et d’hébergement a lieu á l’extérieur du Québec, á défaut d’obtenir les informations ci-dessous sur une base volontaire, le tribunal pourrait, á la demande du parent titulaire du droit de garde, ordonner au parent titulaire du droit de visite de fournir les informations et les documents suivants:
        • une photographie récente de ce parent et de l’enfant ;
        • son adresse et son numéro de téléphone
        • les numéros de tous ses passeports (attention au cas de double ou triple nationalité) ;
        • son numéro de carte de crédit ;
        • son numéro de permis de conduire ;
        • une photocopie de son certificat d’immatriculation ;
        • le nom et l’adresse de l’employeur ;
        • le nom et l’adresse de parents et amis au Québec et dans l’État où doit s’exercer le droit de visite et d’hébergement ;
        • une photocopie des billets d’avion (s’assurer qu’il y a un billet d’avion pour le retour) ;
        • l’itinéraire du voyage comprenant les endroits où l’enfant sera hébergé ;
        • l’obligation de signaler l’arrivée de l’enfant dans l’État de destination aux autorités du consulat ou de l’Ambassade du Canada dans ce pays ou, á défaut, á tout ambassade ou consulat d’un autre pays identifié par la Direction des opérations consulaires ;
        • obligation de se rapporter aux autorités du consulat ou de l’Ambassade du Canada en personne avec l’enfant 48 heures avant la date prévue pour le retour au Québec ;
        • interdiction de quitter l’État où s’exerce le droit d’accès sauf si l’entente ou le jugement prévoit que ce droit pourrait être exercé dans plusieurs États; si tel est le cas, faire en sorte d’obtenir les informations décrites plus haut pour chacun d’entre eux.

Aucune des mesures que nous avons énumérées ci-dessus ne peut garantir qu’il n’y aura pas de déplacement ou de non-retour illicite d’un enfant. Chaque situation étant différente, il faut évaluer cas par cas les moyens ou les solutions de prévention qui seraient les plus appropriés pour chaque parent.

Il faut également savoir que malgré le fait que le jugement de garde prévoie des mesures préventives, ce ne sont que des moyens de prévention et non pas une garantie du retour de l’enfant. De plus, même si un enfant est retenu ou déplacé dans un État signataire de la Convention de La Haye, le retour ne se fait pas automatiquement.

Manitoba Central Authority: Court orders which can be obtained during, for example, divorce or custody proceedings which prohibit, restrict or criminalise removal or retention of a child:

    • Divorce Act:
      • Section 16(7) provides that the court may include in a custody order a term requiring any person who has custody of a child of the marriage and who intends to change the place of residence of that child to notify, at least 30 days before the change or within such other period before the change as the court may specify, any person who was granted access to that child of the change, the time at which the change will be made and the new place of residence of the child.
      • As mentioned in A.1. above, in custody orders under the Divorce Act and The Family Maintenance Act, the Court of Queen’s Bench (Family Division) may include provisions prohibiting removal of a child from the jurisdiction, requiring a certain notice to the other parent of an intent to change a child’s residence, requiring access to be supervised, etc. Also, sole custody orders limit the non-custodial parent’s ability to obtain passport documents, etc.

4. Please give details of any court orders which can be obtained in emergency situations. Can these orders be obtained out-of-hours and ex parte?

Autorité centrale du Québec: Une décision judiciaire peut être obtenue á tout moment lorsque le tribunal n’est pas en session et qu’il y ait urgence (article 88 du Code de procédure civile du Québec). Une décision judiciaire ex parte peut également être obtenue mais les raisons et motifs invoqués devront être de nature très sérieuse.

L’article 46 du Code de procédure civile du Québec stipule que «Les tribunaux et les juges ont tous les pouvoirs nécessaires á l’exercice de leur compétence.

Ils peuvent, en tout temps et en toutes matières, tant en première instance qu’en appel, prononcer des ordonnances de sauvegarde des droits des parties, pour le temps et aux conditions qu’ils déterminent. De plus, ils peuvent, dans les affaires dont ils sont saisis, prononcer, même d’office, des injonctions ou des réprimandes, supprimer des écrits ou les déclarer calomnieux, et rendre toutes ordonnances appropriées pour pourvoir aux cas où la loi n’a pas prévu de remède spécifique».

Les règles de pratique de la Cour supérieure du Québec en matière familiale spécifient á son article 19 que «Ordonnance de sauvegarde: Le tribunal peut, en tout état de cause, prescrire toute mesure susceptible de favoriser la saine administration du dossier et son cheminement á l’audition. Il peut également, en cas d’urgence, prononcer une ordonnance de sauvegarde des droits des parties pour le temps et aux conditions qu’il détermine.»

Manitoba Central Authority: Details of court orders which can be obtained in emergency situations:

    • The Queen’s Bench Rules contemplate that interim orders can be obtained in emergency situations without notice or on short notice. The Court of Queen’s Bench (Family Division) has a telephone number (204-981-9030) which counsel can access for the purposes of making emergency applications outside of normal business hours on weekdays or weekends.

5. Do you have any comments relating to relocation orders?

Autorité centrale du Québec: Le seul commentaire que nous souhaitons faire est á l’effet que nous ne sommes pas en désaccord avec ces décisions á condition qu’elles prévoient les modalités étant donné la distance pour les droits de visite au parent qui restera ici. Il y aurait toutefois lieu que ces décisions contiennent une condition á l’effet qu’il pourra y avoir un établissement dans un autre pays seulement une fois fournie la preuve que ces décisions sont reconnues par les tribunaux de l’autre pays.

03Mar/10

Bulgaria Family Law

BULGARIA AND CHILD ABDUCTION

In May 2003 Bulgaria deposited the ratification instrument on the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the Convention entered into force for Bulgaria on  August 1, 2003.

The effective date with respect to the USA of Bulgaria’s accession to the Convention is January 1, 2005.

The procedure for reviewing and decision making on Hague Convention cases is a court one and is regulated with the CCP of Bulgaria. For cases within the Convention’s field of application the Convention itself is the applicable law. The court may not refuse to order a child’s return on grounds other than the ones listed in the Convention.

Bulgaria has made the following declaration under Art. 6 of the Convention, “In compliance with Art. 6 of the Convention the Republic of Bulgaria determines the Ministry of Justice located at 1 Slavyanska St., Republic of Bulgaria, Sofia 1040, to be the central authority under the Convention”.

The Law on the Amendment and Supplement of the Code of Civil Procedure, published in SG, issue 84 of 2003, introduces after Art. 501 a new, seventh section, entitled Proceedings on a Child’s Return or on the Exercising of the Right of Access. Art. 502 of it determines the Sofia City Court to be the competent court to review and make decisions on cases on applications for children’s return and for exercising of the right of access. Under Art. 504 of the CCP, in cases under the Convention the Sofia City Court must come with a decision within 30 days from the application’s submission; under Art. 505 the appeal of the Sofia City Court’s decision is filed with the Sofia Court of Appeals within 14 days from the date of the decision, in compliance with the provisions of Art. 197 of the CCP.

The Sofia Court of Appeals must come with a decision within 30 days from the date of the submission of the appeal and this decision is final.

In carrying out its powers as a central authority under the Convention, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) assists the parties for a voluntary resolution of the dispute in child abduction and right to access cases. The application filed with the ministry and the accompanying documents are filed through the official channels with the Sofia City Court for its review and decision.

The ministry takes part in the court procedure through its representative. It assists the party who filed the application in empowering a lawyer and serves as a liaison between the central authority and the applicant ensuring the best course of the proceedings and a timely decision on the case from both court instances.

04Feb/10

Brazil Family Law

Brazil Family Law

BRAZIL AND CHILD ABDUCTION

By Fernanda C. A. Freitas

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was adopted on October 25, 1980, during the 14th Session of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. Brazil acceded to the Convention on October 19, 1999, effective January 1, 2000. Decree No. 3413/00 promulgated the Convention in Brazil on April 14, 2000.

Other parties to the Convention have accepted the accession of Brazil, and the Convention has gone into force between Brazil and other 38 members. The United States of America accepted the accession of Brazil to the Convention on September 29, 2003, effective December 1, 2003.

Domestic Laws and Regulations Implementing the Hague Convention

The Central Authority for the Convention in Brazil is the Secretariat of State on Human Rights (Secretaria de Estado dos Direitos Humanos) of the Ministry of Justice. Decree No. 3951/01, effective January 7, 2002, provides for the competence and powers of the Secretariat, and it also creates the National Program for Cooperation on the Return of Internationally Abducted Brazilian Children.

A. Return Requested From Abroad

The Central Authority has only administrative and informational competence, as established by Decree 3951. Brazilian Courts decide the cases of parental kidnapping and the return and visitation schedules for abducted children.

The application for the return of an abducted minor to Brazil must be directed to the Brazilian Central Authority, which will, upon receipt of the return application, analyze and verify all the information and decide whether it complies with the requirements provided for under the Convention.

Because the activities of the Central Authority are informational and administrative only, a lawyer will be necessary for the judicial request, and the Central Authority must take the necessary measures in order to facilitate public funded assistance to those in a need of legal aid.

The Central Authority must take the necessary precautions closely with the Federal Police of the Ministry of Justice, through the division of the International Criminal Police (Interpol), to assure the location and the return of a minor illegally taken to Brazil.

B. Return Requested from Brazil

If the Central Authority receives an application, which meets all the requirements under the Convention, from a requester parent, it will send the return or visitation petition to the Central Authority of the requested country, which will act under its own procedural norms. Under the Convention, the courts of the requested country must order the immediate return of the minor to his country of origin.

According to Decree No. 3951/01, the Brazilian Central Authority must take the necessary precautions, jointly with the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of Brazil and with the Federal Police, through Interpol, for the safe return of Brazilian minors illegally taken out of the country. There is no central police file to report cases of missing children in Brazil. State Police (at the regional level) and Interpol (at the international level) are the responsible authorities to take actions in cases involving missing persons. If there is no substantial proof that a minor has been taken abroad from his residence, the abduction must first be reported at the regional level (State Police), and it will be reported internationally (to Interpol), only a year later. If such proof exists, the case is directly reported to Interpol.

Brazil has also become a member to the Inter-American Convention on International Return of Children, adopted in Montevideo, Uruguay, on July 15, 1989, and ratified by Brazil on May 3, 1994.

The purpose of this Convention is to secure the safe and prompt return of a child,  whose permanent residence is in one of the Member countries17 and who has been wrongfully removed from one Member country to another or who has been lawfully removed, but has been wrongfully retained. It also provides for the enforcement of visitation and custody rights.  In addition, article 34 of the Convention states that in cases involving Members of the Organization of American States (OAS) that are also Members to this Convention and to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, this Convention must prevail, unless stated otherwise through bilateral agreements between the parties.

Domestic Laws Regarding Child Abduction and Parental Visitation

The Federal Constitution of Brazil19 and Law No. 8069/90 (the Statute of Children and Adolescents (ECA)) are the main pieces of legislation regarding the protection of childrens rights in Brazil. The Constitution provides that one of the purposes of the social assistance in the country is to protect underprivileged children and adolescents, and it also sets forth that the protection of children must occur through government incentives, in accordance with the law.

The ECA regularizes the constitutional rules on the guarantee of childrens rights in the country, emphasizing the basic rights of children23 and adolescents, such as the right to be raised and educated among the childs family (and in some cases, in a substitute family) and the right to have the support of both parents for the custody and education of their young child.

A. Child Abduction

Under the Brazilian Penal Code, the punishment for any person who takes and keeps a minor28 from the control of his parents or guardian, or from any other person in charge of him, is imprisonment from 2 months to 2 years. Any parent who takes and keeps the child away of the control of the other parent, who has been judicially assigned the custody of the child, is also committing a crime. The judge may, however, decide not to apply the penalties provided for in this article in case the child has been returned to his residence with no evidence of bad treatment during the period of abduction.

Law No. 8242/91 created the Conselho Nacional dos Direitos da Criança e do Adolescente (CONANDA)  in an effort to increase the protection of childrens rights and fight child abduction in Brazil. The ECA does not provide for a classification of missing children categories, and according to Interpol, cases of parental abductions are considered in Brazil to be cases of missing children, and therefore, statistics are sometimes misleading, because other cases of missing children, such as abduction by unknown persons, may be included in the available data in Brazil. The Ministry of Justice35 reports that although it is very difficult to predict the real number of missing persons in Brazil, it estimates that there are 10,000 cases annually involving missing children and adolescents.

B. Parental Visitation

The Brazilian Civil Code and the ECA38 establishes that minors are under the supervision of their families (paternal power), and that both the father and mother may exercise such power under equal conditions. Usually a custody agreement is reached at the time of the separation of the parents. However, in case of disagreement between the parents, both the father and mother may turn to the proper judicial authority to solve the disagreement, in which case the best interest of the child must prevail, and the physical custody of the minor, assigned to one or both parents, may be determined by the competent judge.

The Civil Code, in article 1584, states that if no agreement was reached with regard to the custody of the minor, the judge must determine the custody rights, taking into consideration the person who will be able to provide for the best environment and conditions for the development of the child. The visitation rights may be modified at any time by the competent judge, as long as there is a well-founded judicial act, and the Office of the Attorney General has been heard.42 Such a modification must represent the best interest of the child, and it must account for the best environment for the social and physical development of the minor as well.

Court System and Structure Courts Handling the Hague Convention

Brazil is a federated republic, with a civil law system, and according to article 92 of the Constitution, its judicial powers are vested in the Federal Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF)), in the Superior Court of Justice (Superior Tribunal de Justiça (STJ)), in the Federal Regional Courts of second and first instance, as well as in the Special Courts (Labor, Electoral and Military) of second and first instance. The sole paragraph of this same article states that the STF and the STJ have their seat in Brasilia (Federal Capital) and their jurisdictions over the entire Brazilian territory.

The Constitution defines the competency of the Federal Courts in articles 106 – 110. In the first instance, the federal judges act in the Judicial Sections (Seções Judiciárias), with seats in the capital of each state of Brazil, as well as in some states, the Federal Courts of first instance (Varas Federais), with jurisdiction over specific municipalities. The second instance, with 5 Federal Regional Tribunals (Tribunais Regionais Federais (TRFs)), located in Brasilia, DF; Rio de Janeiro, RJ; Sao Paulo, SP; Porto Alegre, RS; and Recife, PE, oversees the first instance.

When Brazil is the requested country under the Convention, and there is no voluntary return of the minor, the competent courts for the return proceedings are the Federal Regional Courts of first and second instance. Before Brazil became a party to the Convention, judicial petitions were decided by the ordinary State Courts (Family Courts) in Brazil.

In 2001, the judge of the Federal Court of Santos granted the first court decision in Brazil under the Convention that called for the return of a child to his habitual residence in Sweden, making it a leading case in the matter in the country. The parents of the child lived in Brazil until January of 1996, and the child was born in September 1991 in the city of Santos, Brazil. The couple separated in 1999 under the laws of Sweden, their country of residence at the time. The alternate custody rights of the child were granted to both parents under the Swedish legislation. In 2000, mother and the 9-year old child traveled to Brazil with authorization from the father. However, the mother retained the child in Brazil after the expiration of the authorized travel period, ignoring the custody decision already established by the Swedish court. The father of the child filed a judicial return petition before the Brazilian court on the grounds of the Convention, informing the Brazilian judge of the custody decision determined by the competent court in Sweden.

The Brazilian federal judge granted a verdict favorable to the return of the child to the country of his habitual residence (at the time of his removal), and the decision considered that the retention of the child in Brazil by his mother was illegal, applying articles 3 and 4 of the Convention. The child returned to Sweden on the same day that the federal judge issued the court order to return the child (June 23, 2001).

No records of appellate remedies have been found in this case, and no records of other cases in the appellate level have been found at this time.

Law Enforcement System

To locate children and to secure and enforce orders, the Central Authority, as well as the Judicial Courts, have requested the assistance of the local police and Interpol. Both play an important role in the prevention of child abduction and the protection of childrens rights.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, the Brazilian government requires valid documentation to identify the minors and the persons who are accompanying them in and out of the country, as well as judicial authorization under special circumstances.

The ECA emphasizes that only when the minor is accompanied by both parents, or by the guardian, or if traveling with one of the parents, with the express authorization of the other (stated in a document that holds the official signature of the absent parent), the authorization to travel abroad may be granted. Also, a minor that was born in the national territory of Brazil may only leave the country with express judicial authorization, if in company of a foreign resident or a person domiciled abroad.

If Brazilian judicial courts issue a prohibition for the child or adolescent to leave the country, all cross-border authorities are advised of such a determination.

Legal Assistance Programs

The Constitution of Brazil establishes that the state shall provide full and free-of-charge legal assistance to all who prove insufficiency of funds54 and that the Public Legal Defense is an essential institution to the jurisdictional function of the state and is responsible for the judicial guidance and the defense, in all levels, of the needy, under the terms of article 5, LXXIV. Also, according to the ECA, article 206 states that full and gratuitous judicial assistance will be rendered to all in need of it, and article 111.IV states that the adolescents are ensured, among other things, gratuitous and full legal assistance to those in need, according to the terms of the law.

Law No. 1060/5056 establishes rules for the concession of judicial assistance to those in need in Brazil. The Law determines in article 4 that legal assistance must be provided for the person who demonstrates the need for legal aid simply through an assertion in the initial petition that he cannot afford to pay for the legal expenses and lawyers fees without affecting the financial ability to support his own family. Under the Law, those who affirm such a condition, until it is proven contrary, are considered to be under this needy status.57 Article 5 establishes that the judge must decide the legal aid request within a period of 72 hours, and if the state does not have judicial assistance available, the Brazilian Bar Association (through its regional sections) will be responsible and designated by the judge to provide for such legal aid.

The Federal Court Council (Conselho da Justiça Federal – CJF) designated the gratuitous legal assistance in the Federal Courts of first instance through Approval No. 210/81. The Approval determines that the Direction of each Judicial Section (Seção Judiciária) of the Federal Courts organizes the lists of lawyers annually for each respective section of the Brazilian Bar Association to provide pro bono services to needy persons.

The Brazilian Bar Association and the State of Brazil provide for gratuitous legal assistance to those in need of it, and such aid may be provided for any type of legal question or judicial battle, as long as proof of financial necessity is demonstrated. For instance, the Brazilian Bar Association, Sao Paulo Section, has a Legal Assistance Committee59 that may be reached through assistencia.judiciaria@oabsp.org. br, and has a comprehensive set of information on the issue, including legislation, and other assistance programs available through it.

It appears that there is no current partnership or agreement available between the Central Authority and any other institution in Brazil with regard to legal assistance programs at this time. However, under its administrative and informative roles, the Central Authority may promptly direct interested persons to the available legal assistance sources in the country.

A. Information Resources

There is no national system in Brazil that supports parents in their search for their missing children. There are, however, visible government and private-oriented efforts on the matter.

There is a Federal Government website, where official placement information of missing children is possible, which is later submitted to the Specialized State Police Departments in the country. The Sector of Missing Kids (Setor de Crianças e Adolescentes Desaparecidos), a service of the State Secretariat of Social Assistance and Development of the State of Sao Paulo,  in partnership with ComputerAssociates do Brasil (CA), focuses on family reintegration of missing children, as well as provides for information and parental orientation through specialized professionals to prevent child abduction. The Sector is also structured to provide parents of missing children with digitally enhanced photos that show how their child would physically age, in order to assist in the search. The website works on an integrated basis with Missing Kids websites in more than 10 countries, and it receives, on a daily basis, more than 2 million visits.

The State Secretariat of the Social Action (Secretaria do Estado de Ação Social (SEAS)) of the Government of the Federal District of Brazil maintains a service called SOS Criança, which functions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through a hot line (61) 346-1407 that receives information on alleged cases of childrens rights violations in the Federal District. The SOS Criança receives around 800 calls per month, including around 5 missing children calls per month.

Non-profit organizations also play an important role as a complementary source in the fight against violation of childrens rights. NGOs, such as Mmes. da Sé, located in the city of Sao Paulo, have been dedicated to fighting child abduction for many years, Specifically, there is the Hague Convention Center for Brazil (Centro da Convenção de Haia Brasil), a website that examines the application and enforcement of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in the country. There is substantial material on this issue, including cases and studies, as well as local and international legislation on the subject that are available in Portuguese and, in some cases, in English as well.

There is also an international peace organization called Children in Brazil (Crianças no Brasil) with offices in Brazil and in the United States, created to assist parents of American abducted children taken from their habitual residence to Brazil. All the materials on their website are available in Portuguese and English, and it discloses pictures of missing children to the public. Upon special request, it may also provide assistance to parents of non-American children abducted to Brazil.

Conclusion

Local legislation, judicial, and administrative authorities, as well as government and private funded organizations, are demonstrating visible support of the terms of the Convention, which is surely an example of international protection of childrens welfare. Brazil appears to be implementing the Convention correctly; it is, however, a fairly new member to the Convention, and it might be, perhaps, too soon to draw any further conclusions on the outcome of the application of the Convention in the country.