These FAQs contain general information only, and are not intended as legal advice. Only a qualified lawyer can give you independent legal advice as to the merits of your case.
1. What is the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction?
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty to protect children who are removed or retained by a parent resulting in the other parent’s of rights of custody being breached, by providing a procedure for the prompt return of the child to the country of habitual residence. This is so that the courts in that country can resolve the issues of parental responsibility.
The Convention assumes that the courts in the child's country of habitual residence are best able to make decisions on the child’s best interests.
The Convention also allows parents to apply for access to their child who lives overseas with the other parent.
A Central Authority is set up in each country to deal with requests for the return of children taken to or from each country.
2. Which Countries are parties to the Convention?
To find a list of countries that are parties to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction visit the Hague website.
See the list of countries with which Singapore has a Convention relationship.
3. What requirements do I have to meet to apply for the return of my child from another Contracting State?
To ensure that a child can be returned to Singapore from another country or territory which is a party to the Hague Convention, all the following requirements must be met:
- your child must be under 16 years old
- you must have "rights of custody" in relation to the child
- you must have been exercising rights of custody at the time your child was taken from Singapore
- your child must have been habitually residing in Singapore immediately before he or she was taken overseas
- your child must have been taken to or retained in a country which is a party to the Hague Convention
- your child must have been wrongfully removed from Singapore or wrongfully retained in another Convention Contracting State or territory without your prior consent or a court order
If all the above conditions are satisfied, you can request – through the judicial/administrative authorities – that the child be brought back to Singapore.
In some cases, the abducting parent will object to the child returning to Singapore. The relevant overseas Court will consider your reasons for objection.
It is important to take action as soon as you discover that your child has been taken from Singapore or retained overseas.
Any delay in action may later be seen either as:
- a lack of concern about your child being overseas, or
- you having agreed to your child being overseas.
4. Does the Convention apply if an application is made between Singapore and a non-signatory country to either return a child or exercise rights of access?
The International Child Abduction Act 2010 and the Convention do not apply under such circumstances.
Unless an amicable agreement can be reached for the child to be voluntarily returned or for access to the child, the applicant should seek legal advice from his or her lawyer in Singapore or in the non-signatory country where the child is located as soon as possible.
5. Is parental child abduction a crime in Singapore?
In Singapore, parental child abduction is not considered a criminal issue but is viewed as a civil matter.
6. How long will it take to process an application for the return of a child under the Convention?
The length of time to process an application will vary depending on the factors of the case, and may take longer if the parent/guardian who removed or retained the child opposes the application or if the child cannot be located. Applicants may proceed to file an application directly with the Family Court or make inquiries with the Singapore Central Authority with regard to their application.
After the Singapore Central Authority has ascertained that the required information is furnished in the application form, the applicant would be advised to file application in Court. Note: the applicant can file in person or through his lawyer.
7. Will the Singapore Central Authority assist in matters regarding divorce and custody proceedings?
No, the Singapore Central Authority does not advise on divorce and custody matters. Please seek legal advice from your lawyer.
8. What assistance can the Singapore Central Authority (SCA) provide if my child has been abducted to Singapore?
Singapore Central Authority’s key role is to:
- Provide information on and assist parents with their applications for the return of their child who has been removed from the country of habitual residence, where he or she normally lives in, or retained in another country or territory, resulting in the breach of rights of custody attributed to one parent
- Work with other relevant Contracting State’s Central Authority on such applications
If your child has been removed to or retained in Singapore, Singapore Central Authority can assist in facilitating:
- the location and voluntary return of the child, and
- the care and protection of the child where necessary
Singapore Central Authority may also provide information on:
- how to apply to the Family Court
- legal aid
- services for counselling and emotional support
9. How long will it take the Singapore Central Authority (SCA) to locate a child?
This depends on many factors, such as the information given by the applicant on how or where to locate the child.
It is important that the applicant provides such information quickly and accurately to aid the Singapore Central Authority to locate the child in Singapore.
10. What steps can be taken to prevent the taking parent from taking the child out of Singapore?
Where the application for the return of the child is pending, any interested person may apply to the Court to issue an injunction restraining any person from taking the child out of Singapore. Whether a party has sufficient interest in the Hague proceedings is a matter to be determined by the Court.
11. How long will the legal process take?
The length of the legal process for a Hague Convention case varies. It depends on factors such as:
- whether the child can be located
- whether an appeal is filed and
- when a case can be ready for hearing and the time taken for hearing and decision by the court.
However, the Singapore Court is committed to resolving cases as soon as possible so that family relationships can be restored to what it was prior to the abduction.
12. If I apply for the return of a child, do I need to travel to Singapore where my child is to attend judicial or administrative proceedings?
You are required to attend the court proceedings in person unless you are represented by counsel.
13. How can I make an appeal if a court denies the return of my child?
If you are not satisfied with the decision, you may make an appeal to the High Court by filing a Notice of Appeal within one month from the date of the judgment or order appealed against. Get more information on the Court’s appeal process.
14. How does Singapore Central Authority ensure that a return order is enforced?
Once a return order is issued by the Family Court, the Singapore Central Authority will assist to facilitate the safe return of the child back to the country of habitual residence. The Singapore Central Authority will also liaise with the relevant Contracting State’s Central Authority on this.
Should the taking parent defy the Court order by not returning the child to the state of habitual residence, the taking parent is deemed to be in contempt of the Court. The applicant for the return of the child may institute committal proceedings for contempt of court against the taking parent for disobeying the order of court. The procedures pertaining to committal proceedings are contained in the Rules of Court. A party found to be in contempt of court can be liable to be fined or jailed, or both.
15. What is Singapore Central Authority’s role in the arrangements to facilitate the child’s return to his or her home country in the situation where both parents are unable to accompany the child?
Should both parents and taking parent be unable to accompany the child back to the country of habitual residence, the Singapore Central Authority can facilitate the return by liaising with both parents to arrange for their relatives to accompany a child to the airport or for the airport gateway service to escort child for departure at no cost to both parents if the child is 10 years old and above. Singapore Central Authority may also make arrangements with the relevant airline for its assistance to keep a lookout for the child while he or she is onboard.
If the child is below 10 years old, the child is deemed too young to travel without being accompanied by an adult. The child will remain in the care of the taking parent until the time when the taking parent is able to accompany the child back or the left-behind parent is able to fetch the child and accompany the child back to his country of habitual residence.
16. What are the child protection measures in place for an alleged case of child abuse (by either the taking parent or left behind parent)?
Should the taking parent be the alleged perpetrator, the Court can order the Child Protection Service of the MSF to make an assessment on the welfare of the child. Should the assessment reveal any concerns, the Child Protection Service will commence investigations under the provisions provided by the Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA).
Should the left-behind parent be the alleged perpetrator, the Singapore Central Authority will request for the foreign Central Authority to liaise with community agencies on measures to ensure that the child will be protected and not be subjected to any harm upon return.
17. What kind of assistance will the Singapore Central Authority provide to ensure the safe return of child to his or her habitual residence overseas under circumstances of alleged domestic violence perpetrated by the left-behind parent?
If the Court decides that the child should be returned, the Court has the power to impose conditions or require undertakings before the child can be taken out of Singapore. On the part of the Singapore Central Authority, should the Court determine that there are concerns of welfare relating to the child, the Singapore Central Authority will request the assistance of the Central Authority of the child’s country of habitual residence to liaise with community agencies on measures to ensure that the child will be protected and not be subjected to any harm upon his or her return.
18. Do I have to pay any legal costs on seeking assistance from the Singapore Central Authority for the return of my child?
You are required to bear legal costs unless legal aid is granted. You may also have to bear other costs associated with the application of return of the child such as the cost of travel and accommodation. However, the Singapore Central Authority does not charge for any administrative costs in liaising with other authorities/agencies or in assisting with the completion of a request form.
19. Can anyone apply for legal aid?
Yes, legal aid is available for an applicant (left-behind parent) and respondent (taking parent) of the Convention. Applicants residing overseas may apply through the Singapore Central Authority while applicants residing in Singapore are to apply in person directly with the Legal Aid Bureau. The Legal Aid Bureau will consider the application based on means and merits tests.
20. How long does it take to process an application for legal assistance?
The length of time taken to process an application for legal aid varies depending on whether the information or documents accompanying the application are complete and sufficient for the said purpose, the means test on the applicant and merits of the case.
21. Can one object to a child’s return to Singapore under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction?
Under the Convention, the taking parent may oppose the child’s return on the any of following grounds:
- the child is aged 16 or above
- the child has been outside Singapore for over 12 months and is settled in his or her new environment
- the child was not habitually resident in Singapore at the time of the removal or retention
- the applicant in Singapore did not have rights of custody for the child
- the applicant in Singapore was not exercising rights of custody for the child at the time of the removal
- the applicant gave prior consent to the permanent removal or retention of the child or subsequently acquiesced to the removal or retention of the child
- the child would be exposed to a grave risk of physical harm, psychological harm or some other intolerable situation if returned to the Contracting State
- the child objects to being returned and is of an age and a level of maturity to justify his or her views being taken into account
- the child's return would be a breach of its fundamental freedoms and human rights
The applicant may be asked to give evidence to counter any claims made by the taking parent overseas on any of the above defences.
22. How quickly will an application to the foreign Central Authority be processed?
The time taken to process applications is dependent on the procedures of the relevant Contracting State’s Central Authority. The Singapore Central Authority will liaise regularly with the relevant Contracting State’s Central Authority to ensure that the application is receiving their attention.
23. Will the Singapore Central Authority assist in monitoring the progress of outgoing applications?
In accordance with the Hague Convention Guide to Good Practice, the relevant Contracting State’s Central Authority is encouraged to inform the applicant, or his or her lawyer, as soon as it receives the application. The relevant Contracting State’s Central Authority is also encouraged to send progress reports as soon as any information is received about how the application is proceeding. The applicant should contact the Singapore Central Authority if he or she is concerned because he or she did not receive an update.
24. Will I need to travel to the country where my child has been taken for a court hearing?
The answer to this question would depend on which jurisdiction your child has been abducted to. We understand that in some contracting states, courts dealing with applications under the Hague Convention are encouraged to proceed with the hearings without the need for the applicant to be present. However, in some cases where an application is strongly defended by the abducting parent, it is possible that the Court may request the attendance of both parents so that both parents can give their evidence in person.
25. If I have to travel abroad to attend court, who will assist me in the foreign country?
Should you be required to attend the court hearing overseas, you will need to make your own travel and accommodation arrangements. The foreign Central Authority will assist you by providing basic information on the judicial procedures and assistance. Before you travel, the foreign Central Authority will provide you or your lawyer, the address of the Court and the time and date of the hearing.
26. If the language in the foreign Contracting State is not English, who will help me with the interpretation?
The Singapore Central Authority can contact the relevant Contracting State’s Central Authority to request for their assistance in arranging for an interpreter for the court hearing bearing in mind that in some countries, you may be required to pay for the engagement of interpreters.
27. If the taking parent decides to remain in the foreign country, how will arrangements be made for the child's return?
The Court in the foreign jurisdiction can order the return of a child, but the judge has no authority to force the taking parent to return with the child. If an application is successful, the left-behind parent in Singapore may need to travel to the relevant foreign jurisdiction to bring the child back if the taking parent does not wish to return to Singapore.
28. What is the cost of an outgoing application?
Most Central Authorities in the foreign jurisdictions do not charge for any work that they do. However, some countries may require an applicant to pay all or part of the cost of legal representation. The applicant should also be prepared to pay costs such as travel costs for his or her child's return and to meet travel costs if he or she is required to give evidence in the proceedings in the foreign country.