Natalie Webb | Understanding the Hague Convention

Most family lawyers don’t know enough about the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction…

What are the must-know facts that family lawyers should be aware of if this convention becomes relevant to a client?

In this episode, Natalie Webb of Webb Family Law will break down the Hague Convention and its impact on family law.

She’ll cover:

  • When does the Hague Convention apply?
  • Common misconceptions about the Convention
  • Working with the state authority on a case
  • Determining a child’s habitual residence
  • Related criminal statutes
  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Natalie Webb: The Hague Convention does not have to do with child custody at all. So I know that’s a big question and also very strange for us as family law lawyers to think about that, that this is specifically jurisdictional.

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast, your source for the latest news and trends in family law in the state of Texas. Now, here’s your host attorney Holly Draper.

Holly Draper: Today we’re excited to welcome Natalie Webb, the Texas family law insiders podcast. Natalie is a partner at Webb family law in Dallas, Texas. She’s board certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and dedicates her practice exclusively to family law matters. Her experience includes highly complex property divorces, custody, litigation, premarital and post marital agreements, enforcement proceedings, international child abduction and paternity matters. She’s been the course director for advanced family law one on one and has been on the planning committee for the advanced family law and marriage dissolution ceilings. Natalie is a fellow of the American Academy of matrimonial lawyers, and a fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Natalie: Thank you, Holly, for having me.

Holly: So why don’t you start by just telling us a little bit about yourself.

Natalie Webb: So about myself, I’m married, been married seven years, I have four dogs, no kids, but we treat our dogs as our kids outside of my law, practice, and lock rear. My husband and I like to travel a lot. I do yoga and tennis. I like to read and watch movies. And that’s how I unwind after, you know, spending all day at the office.

Holly: So how would you describe your current practice?

Natalie: So my current practice was actually, my dad started this practice. And he practiced for over 40 years, I joined him right out of law school. I’ve always practiced exclusively family law. My brother actually then joined us in the practice a few years later. So we actually had a true family Family Law Firm. And then when my dad passed in 2019, I have taken over as Managing Partner, we now have six total lawyers. All of our lawyers are board certified in family law. We practice mainly in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex area. However, we do take cases all over the state. And I think we’re a small enough office where we are able to collaborate on cases, we do like to get a lot of input and make sure we can customize and tailor our strategies towards each individual case.

Holly: So I’m very excited to have you on today to talk about a topic that I know virtually nothing about. And I’m guessing that most of our listeners also know little to nothing about this topic. But it is a family law topic. And I think it’s important for us, as family lawyers, to know enough about it, to know when we need to give sermon by us refer somebody out those sorts of things. And who knows, maybe there’s people out there who think I want to learn more and start practicing these cases. And specifically, that is the Hague Convention on International child abduction. So can you give us just a general overview of what it is?

Natalie: Yes. Okay. So the Hague Convention on International child abduction, basically was formed with a goal in mind to prevent and deter for forum shopping and abduction of children across borders, by parents who either believe they will get favorable treatment in another country, or they believe they will get some sort of advantage over the other parent due to the distance and financial resources that it would take for the left behind parent to fight custody in the other country. And so this was done in the 80s, the United States became a party to the Hague Convention in 1988. And as of today, there are approximately 103 countries that are signatories to the Hague. And that’s the Hague Convention refers to them as contracting states. So that is the basis behind the Hague. Also, what I think is most important to take out of this is that the Hague Convention does not have to do with child custody at all. So I know that’s a big question and also very strange for us as family law lawyers to think about that, that this is specifically jurisdictional. And whether or not a court decides to return a child to the country and the left behind parent or not, is not to be taken as a basis of They were giving custody to one parent or the other it is purely supposed to be jurisdictional.

Holly: So is this a civil or criminal case?

Natalie: So the Hague Convention that we’re talking about now is purely civil. It’s purely a civil remedy. There are no criminal penalties under the Hague. Although there can be civil penalties such as attorneys fees awarded if a wrongful removal is found so, but no criminal.

Holly: And is it a federal issue or a state issue or both?

Natalie: It’s actually both that you can choose it as covered by federal statute. But you can file a case either in federal court or state court, depending on strategy. Sometimes, depending on where the case might be, sometimes determines whether or not I want to file in federal court or state court. And a lot of that has to do with, like, if we have family court jurisdiction, as opposed to general jurisdiction court is solely family law. Sometimes it might be harder for a family law judge to look at this as a purely jurisdictional case. Because there, as we will talk about later, there’s defenses to return, that can raise issues of best interest. And so sometimes federal courts that don’t do family law all the time are able to separate those issues a little better.

Holly: So when does the Hague apply?

Natalie: So the Hague Convention applies if a parent, for instance. And I’ll give an example, say that there is a mother who takes the children from Mexico to Texas, so now they’ve crossed the United States border. And that Hague Convention will apply if that child is under 16. So if the child is over 16, there is no a convention, the action needs to be brought within one year of the removal, or retention of the child in Texas in this example. And you have to show that the left behind parent was exercising rights of custody, as it is defined by their country’s laws. And that does not mean there has to be a court order necessarily, if parents aren’t married, just like in the United States. Here, you still have a right to accessing custody of your child, whether there’s a court order or not so,

Holly: So even if, you know, mom and dad have never been married, they have a kid together. They’re sort of just functioning. Let’s say mom’s primarily raising the child but dad sees the child occasionally but doesn’t pay child support doesn’t have a schedule, Mom absconds with the child to another country, even though dad doesn’t have that court order he still can file under the Hague?

Natalie: Yes, that is correct. And most countries do have in their laws, or codes, something that will define parents as having rights of custody or access just by virtue of being a parent.

Holly: So how long does a headcase typically take? Is it like a custody case that can last for a year or longer? Or is it a quicker process?

Natalie: So in theory, it is supposed to be an expedited process. But I say in theory, because that does not always happen. But the goal of the convention is to obtain a quick return of the child to the child’s habitual residence, so the country that the child was removed from. So every effort should be made by a court and this sets it forth in the actual convention to have an expedited hearing. And actually, the Convention does say that if it’s been over six weeks since a petition for return has been filed, and there has not been any action on it, that either the central authority of the country or the petitioner can request a statement from the court asking what why is there this delay? Now, I have had a few cases that actually are done within six to eight weeks. And sometimes it does depend on the court schedule. Again, Federal Court seems to move faster and more efficiently than state court in my experience, not all the time, but the majority of the time that’s faster. It can also depend on what defenses are raised by the respondent, the abducting parent to the return. So sometimes, even if a trial starts, you know, within the six weeks, there may it’d be a break because certain things need to be investigated regarding those defenses.

Holly: You mentioned something about a central authority of a country. What is that? Can you explain what it is and the role that they play?

Natalie: So the central authority is basically the United States State Department is the central authority for the United States. So the central authority is the designated department, or legal authority that each contracting country appoints to basically take care of and deal with the wrongful abductions of children. So, like I said, for the United States, it’s the State Department. So you can actually go to as a resource, the State Department website and look up international child abduction, and it will give you a lot of information about the Hague Convention on International child abduction, it will give you resources, who to contact. And so basically, what happens with a central authority is they are the first contact by the person wanting to have the children returned to the petitioner. So they contact the central authority, the central authority will help them fill out an application for return, they will help them find the law in their country about about whether they have rights of custody, they will help them fill out affidavits, they will help them find legal representation as well, if that’s needed, they will also help that person, try to find the abducting parent and their child, which can be an issue because as we know, if somebody’s fleeing with a child, they don’t always tell the left behind parent where they are. So the State Department can use their resources to find that parent and that child, the State Department or central authority will also reach out if they do find that person before litigation starts and send them a letter asking for them to voluntarily return the child. And then if that doesn’t work, like I said they will help. The State Department doesn’t represent the petitioner in litigation, but they will help them find legal counsel. And how the United States does that is that the State Department has this network is the Hague attorney network. And so you can sign up as a lawyer who is interested in doing Hey, cases, to be on their list. And so when they get an application from someone, and they find that, hey, we think the children are in your general jurisdictional area, they will send us that lawyer that is signed up in the network and email that says, hey, here are the facts. There’s it’s limited facts, but they’ll tell you what country we think that they are located in Dallas, for instance, would you be interested in being on a shortlist of attorneys that we are going to provide to this person, they will also tell you, this person is looking for pro bono or low Bono representation, which is a lot of the times the case through the Hague attorney network. Not always but often. And they say that’s between you and the client, but we will give them your name, so you can expect their call. So that is what the State Department does, as the central authority. The central authority is important also, because all of the documentation that they receive from the petitioner, the left behind parent, goes to the State Department. And then if you decide to take a case and file a petition for this parent, they provide all of the evidence to you to use in the case. And anything that you get from the State Department, there is an article under the Hague Convention that says anything that you receive from the State Department is admissible as evidence, because most of that evidence is otherwise going to be found only in the other country. And so are the witnesses, all of that. So that is the way to get evidence through the central authority, collecting documents and then sending them to you in a package. So so they help with that. They also keep up with the process. So I notify them. Yes, if I take a case, I say I’ve taken this case. And then I tell them, Okay, it’s been filed. This is the court that it is filed in here’s the judge. They will then send a letter to the judge, just with an outline of how the Hague proceedings should go how they work. I’m not giving legal advice, but just you know, in case you’ve never done one of these here Are Here is the process. And then they keep up with me as a lawyer like, how is it going? Are you able to find, you know, the other parent, for instance, right now I have a case where we’re having problems finding the mom who abducted the children because she keeps moving. But instead of having to use our resources to find that mom, I reach out to my contact at the State Department. And they say, Okay, let us look. And then they’ll come back and say, here’s some more addresses that we found, you may want to try here. So. So they are a great resource, at least I know, in the United States. And I also know that in some countries, the central authority will also help that left behind parent pay for legal fees not in the United States will not. But other countries do do that. So they’re very handy resource.

Holly: So do they then work with the central authority in the country where the parent has fled with the kids to try and obtain evidence to try and locate them?

Natalie: Does that happen? Yes, they do. So for instance, in the Mexico United States situation, I update the US central authority, and they stay in touch with the Mexican central authority, their counterpart, and give them updates on what’s going on. And if they need information that they can obtain from them, they will get that for me, and then send that to me. So yes, they can.

Holly: So can a parent’s go to a lawyer first, or do they always need to start with a central authority?

Natalie: No, they can go to a lawyer first. In fact, I have been contacted privately. And so yes, that is an option. I will say that, when that if that happens, and I’m representing the left behind parent, I would then want to contact the central authority and let them know what is going on in them to get involved, again, really, for evidence purposes, so that they can get the evidence and I can get that evidence and that I need, because it is specific that it says the evidence that is admissible, no question has to come through the State Department through the central authority. So that would be why I would want them involved.

Holly: One are the elements you have to prove if you are going forward with a case.

Natalie: So the elements to prove a case are basically like I said, there has to be a child under the age of 16, that has been wrongfully removed or wrongfully retained from their country of habitual residence, right. And the suit has to be brought, well, the suit doesn’t have to be brought within one year, it is a mandatory return. If all those elements are met, and it has been under a year,

Holly: So if over a year, you could still file it, you just might have a more difficult road.

Natalie: So if it is over a year, you can still file it, it is just it becomes a discretionary return. Because then there is something basically the court can, or the abducting parent can argue that the child has been well saddle well settled in their new environment. Now, the goal of the convention overall is no matter what you should try to return the child. But again, there are these outs because again, if a child has been here for five years, you want to be able to say, okay, look, maybe it’s not a great idea to send a child who was three when he was abducted, and now he’s eight and he’s now nothing but the Say, for instance, the United States and not seeing his dad, and maybe it isn’t the best thing to return them to that country. Right. So I think if you’re if you’re close to a year, or just over, you’re probably going to have a better chance of that defense not flying, especially if it’s because the abducting parent is hiding, right if they’re just floating around trying to avoid service moving from state to state house to house because, so.

Holly: You mentioned earlier and I think it ties in with the elements but something about the habitual residence of the child. How do we know something qualifies as a child’s habitual residence?

Natalie: Okay. So, they have guttural residents is basically there is no specific time period. Say for instance, you know, when we talk about under the UCC, J A and homestate and six months, right? That’s kind of our time period. There is no specific time period, there is no specific definition of what habitual residence is in the actual convention. But it’s been interpreted over the years through case law to be interpreted as the child’s domicile where the child’s day to day life has been. There has to be some sort of degree of settled purpose. It doesn’t have to be necessarily an intention to stay permanently, but an intention to stay for some time, that is not just oh, I’m going to Canada for a month. We know this is a vacation if you were going to Canada for a month. And the intention was that we are going to live in Canada, and we move to Canada, for instance, and then somebody takes the child back, you could argue that Canada was the habitual residence. If you had said we’re gonna take a vacation to Canada with the intent on returning to the United States in a month, then yes, that would not be the habitual residence, the United States would have retained it. So it really is very practical. And like, where’s the child’s day to day living been right before the abduction?

Holly: Does citizenship play any role in determining the habitual residence?

Natalie: It can. It doesn’t have to, though, so if citizenship is a factor in determining that, however, there are many cases where, say, for instance, you know, may be United States citizens, but your job takes you overseas. So you’re living in Indonesia, say for a year. And that’s the intent that y’all are going to stay there indefinitely until the next posting, if someone abducted the United States, even though now they’ve taken United States citizens back to the US Indonesia still going to be the habitual residents under those facts.

Voiceover: This episode of the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast is sponsored by the Draper Law Firm, providing family law appellate representation for non parent custody cases, jurisdictional issues, property division, standing conservatorship, possession and access, termination, parental rights, and grandparent access. For more information, visit, or call 469-715-6801.

Holly: You mentioned also defenses to a petition for return, what defenses does the parent who has taken the child have? And how can they prove those?

Natalie: So there are various defenses. The first one is if the left behind parent actually acquiesced or consented to the removal or retention. And just removal is hey, I absconded didn’t tell you I was going to the other place. And we’re not coming back from retention is Hey, I told you, we were going to go to the United States for a vacation, and we’re returning on X date, and then I didn’t come back, right. So that’s the difference between the removal and retention. So you can actually consent to a vacation, right? And then and it’s not wrongful until X date comes when they were supposed to return and they do not return that becomes the date of the wrongful retention. So that’s when the consent stopped. Right. So that is not a consent to stay past a certain dates. So if you consent that is obviously a defense if the child objects to the return. There is an exception for that under Article 13. B, this is really the only I’m trying to it’s different than what we look at us family law under our Texas laws that say, okay, a child aged 12 has to be interviewed. There’s not a page listed in the convention. So there’s been a lot of case law on this, about how this works. I, after looking at everything, think that if somebody does raise this defense, the judge does have to interview the child because you do have to, you have to determine one does the child object to the return? And then you have to determine as the court finder of fact, is that child reached an age and degree of maturity, where it would be appropriate to take that child’s views into account, right. So courts have found that a seven year old has reached the age and degree of maturity to take into account their views. And then in other cases found that a 15 year old does not reach that age of maturity, right? So it’s a very fact specific to each filed. And and each case. So that is one defense. And then the most often used defense is going to be the article 13 B, grave risk of harm defense is what it’s called under the convention. So basically, you can look at that in two ways. There’s grave risk of harm posed by the country of return or grave risk of harm posed by the left behind parent. So those are the two categories that the grave risk falls into. So the grave risk by the country. And again, you have to look at a lot of case law to determine to interpret the Convention on this. And also there is an actual long like 80 Something page interpretation that was written fairly quickly after the convention came out. It’s called the Perez Vera report. And it tries to go through and say this was the intent of the drafters this was what we think the intent was, for each of these articles. The intent that I believe the Perez Vera report says in most countries will, most courts in the countries will take is, if you’re looking at a risk posed by a country, you’re looking at, like famine, disease, rampant disease, warfare, you know, civil war going on, but even then, they look at so there’s been a lot of cases with Israel, for instance, because Israel does have a lot of bombings and warfare that go on consistently throughout time around that area. There have been a lot of cases that say, Well, you know, you voluntarily kept your lived there with your child for all these years while all of this was going on. So yes, we are aware that there might be missiles flying by but you lived there voluntarily. So nothing has changed. It’s the same. It wasn’t like you were living in peace in a civil war broke out, and you fled for your life. So. So they look at that. I think more frequently, what people obviously bring up are the risks posed by the left behind parent, which often come up as child abuse, sexual abuse, or family violence. All of these are claims that can be made. However, the court this is where it gets tricky, about, where are you getting into best interest and making a custody determination? Versus Hey, okay, these are issues. But can the court in that other country deal with these issues? Right, they Is there a court there, that and a family court that will look at these issues and be able to protect the child. So that’s where it gets a little messy. And sometimes you have to remind the court that I understand this sounds horrible. And if it is true, then there is a court in Canada who can deal with this, right, they’re not going to put the child at harm. So again, even when these defenses come up, the goal of the convention is to what to what can we do, even if these things do exist? How do we get that child back the goal is for the return if possible, which also allows if those say, the grave risk defense comes up, and a court is concerned that maybe there is some family abuse, child abuse going on? The convention allows that court here that’s making the decision to make undertakings, right, so they can set forth undertakings that say, this is how the child has to go back the the we don’t, we aren’t saying that the child goes back to the left behind parent to that custody, we’re saying this parent can take has to take the child back and can remain in their care or someone else’s care or has to be brought to the custody of CPS, the equivalent of CPS or whatever Child Services in that country, for them to deal with it before, you know, that court makes those decisions. So, there are ways for protections to be put in place and still return the child under these circumstances. So,

Holly: so do both countries have authority to consider the case or does the case need to be either why they left forearm or where they have fled to

Natalie: it is generally litigated in the country where the children have have been taken to so yes, so it is in the country where their children are, because that is the case generally to when you file you will ask the court to issue an order an order to appear as if in an enforcement hearing, and an order for that abducting parent to bring the child or child Learn to the courthouse on that date as well. Because that way the court has knows that children are there. And if they order their return, they can send the children, either home with that parent or, like in the case of, I’ve had in federal court have federal marshals have to go and get the children and, and take them to the airport and all of that. So, yeah, generally, it’s going to be in the country where their children are found, because otherwise, the order is going to fall on. I mean, you can have an order, but it’s not really enforceable, if you don’t have the kids right there to, to enforce it, or some other remedy to enforce it. Whether it be putting a I say this, putting a parent in jail, I’ve only seen that done once. And it was like, I’m gonna put you in jail because I ordered not because the Hague Convention says you can. But because there was an order that said, bring the children to the courthouse, that parent did not bring the children to the courthouse, the children were ordered to return. And so they said, I’m holding you in contempt for not following the order to bring them. And you’re gonna sit in jail until the kids get here. So.

Holly: So if you have let’s say, the parents are living here with their children, and mom takes the kids to Europe, not going to return dad needs to file under the Hague Convention? Is he going to need a lawyer in Europe? Or is a lawyer here going to school to help him deal with that situation?

Natalie: So generally, what I do is if someone contacts me and says, you know, they’ve been taken to another place, first thing is, yeah, let me get you in contact with a lawyer over there, because you’re gonna need to file a petition for return under the Hague over there. Second, are you married? Do you want to file for divorce over here? Do you want to file some sort of custody papers here? So and generally, we can do that so that there can be orders here, there can be a case open here, there’s a court for that other jurisdiction to say, hey, look, we already have a case open, there’s a judge, there’s the court ready to deal with all of this over here. So if you send them back, we’re ready to go. This court is going to take care of this child, no matter what defenses may be raised, right? But definitely, yes, you need to have someone in that other country ready to file, and, and present all of that evidence. And again, having a lawyer here to get to help get the evidence to the other lawyer, and all of that and through the central authorities is helpful.

Holly: So can you walk us through the process of first if there’s an abduction of a child to the United States, so parents are in foreign country with trial, one of them, like your example of Mexico, mom comes with the kid to Texas, and now Dad wants them returned? Can you walk us through what happens?

Natalie: Sure. So what happens then is dad contacts the authorities, and we’re gonna use the Mexico example in Mexico. Those authorities, get him in touch with their central authority, whoever that may be their version of the State Department. Their central authority then contacts our central authority and says, Hey, we think that there’s some kids that have been abducted. Okay, so then the State Department starts working with the Mexican central authority, and that parent to fill out an application, which is different than actually filing the petition for return that you as the lawyer file. So they file an application that they have, with all the facts all they have the passports, ID cards, if possible, of the children copies of that they attach a statement of the law of the country, like I said before about, yes, they had us they’ll have lawyers on staff that do this, that will say, here’s the law. I’m a lawyer, and I’m going to sign this affidavit saying that this was the law in the state or country, this person was exercising their rights of custody, then the State Department will at this will be trying to locate the abducting parent, if possible, if they don’t already know where they are. Once they find them, they will send them usually a voluntary, a letter of voluntarily sorry, sent that letter of voluntary return and say, hey, look, you know, it’s our understanding that this has happened. We have an application on file, we are asking that you voluntarily return the child or children to that country. If not, there will be a proceeding that will be filed under the Hague Convention. So when that doesn’t work, then they get, they reach out to the Hague Convention, Hague attorney network usually or tell the person you can go find your yourself a private attorney, or we have this network of attorneys. And then generally what happens, the client will contact you make whatever arrangements for that. And then after that, I’ll decide, okay, the State Department will send me a packet of the information, tell me the details, tell me what addresses they have for service. And then I decide are we going to do this in federal court or state court, and then we draft a petition for return under the Hague. And it sets forth all the statutes, The Hague is set forth in the United States Code. So there’s reference to the United States Code, there’s, I have a lot of boring language that we put in these. But you filed a petition for return, alleging all the elements that we went through, and then set it and again, we always tell the court when we set it, hey, this is a petition under the Hague Convention, it’s supposed to be an expedited hearing, could you please try to get us a date within six weeks? And they usually do try. And so when we get that notice, we also issue an order for the court to sign ordering that person to appear, and again, ordering that person to bring the children before the court on that hearing date. And then after that, assuming we get service, and that person shows up and gets an attorney, then their response will be, then we know, okay, are they going to allege any of these defenses? Right? Then we have to look at all the defenses. Look at the case law, which the case was very interesting to country to country, there’s some some very famous case cases that you can say, on the elements and all of that, that, you know, doesn’t really matter that it was in Germany or whatever. But depending on what jurisdiction you’re in, obviously, like we all do, you try to find as much as you can out of that jurisdiction, or at least out of the United States, because different countries do interpret some of these defenses differently. For example, I think Europe, in general, as a mindset tends to look at Children’s Rights differently than maybe the United States. So if someone’s going to, to allege like the child objects to return, you might get a different result in Europe than you would in the United States. As far as what weight do we give details objection, you might get more weight given to it in Europe than you would in the United States. So at least that’s been my, my experience, so and then the hearing happens, and either the court will make undertakings and return the child, they, they usually try to make a ruling pretty quickly, because a lot of times, I will try to have that left behind parent come and be in person. So they are spending money, having to make travel arrangements having to deal with Visa stuff, sometimes, depending on what country they’re coming from. And so and when that happens, I want the judge to be aware of that, like, they’re ready to take the child with them. If you roll that it returns right now, they can be here and take the child back. Or the court will maybe say hey, I’m going to do these undertakings, or I’m going to let the child stay here for one more week. And then you’re to come and mom’s supposed to mom or dad, whoever the abducting parent is here instructions on how you return the child. And that’s basically it. I will say that. One other thing we haven’t covered is the attorneys fees. Now, it’s just as good as any judgment that we get for attorneys fees. But it does state that if the court finds that there was a wrongful removal or retention, that they shall award attorneys fees and costs of travel and all of the other costs associated and having to come get the child and travel to be there. But then it also has that exception of unless there’s good cause otherwise good cause, right. So that doesn’t give it a whole lot of teeth. Now, most of the time you do get attorneys fees, but then again, most of the time, you don’t collect on the judgment either. But there is a mechanism to say someone is serving somebody with the petition any different than, you know, when I file a divorce, and I call special delivery. I’m like, hey, I need to serve this guy at this address, and they take it from there. Are there any special requirements under the Hague for serving someone?

Natalie: No, there are no special requirements. It’s just the same as if you’re serving them with the petition for divorce.

Holly: Is the process basically identical when it’s reverse, whether it’s the induction from the United States to another kind Drink?

Natalie: Yeah, basically reversed, except you’re having to do it, you’re having to litigate over in that other country.

Holly: So there’s the parent who was left behind, always have to travel to the country, where are the parents to the kids to pursue a case?

Natalie: Not always, the courts are. In these cases, I found that even before COVID, and zoom, and all of this technology that we now have, the courts have been very, very flexible with having them appear via some sort of video conference, phone, something because there are situations whether it’s just financially not possible. Or, for instance, I had one case recently that out of Canada, Canada, coming to Texas, and because he had not been vaccinated for COVID. And he was not a United States citizen, he had to go get a special visa to get across the border. And it had to be for this, like I had to send special court orders and a letter for him to show the authorities to allow him to cross without being vaccinated. And he had to get an exemption. So things like that happen. Depending on what country there are pieces that have to be obtained that can take months to get so. So they’re very accommodating. I’ve found in those types of situations.

Holly: So when should we as attorney? Or what are some things that we should be listening for on alert for from our clients or potential clients? To let us know, Hey, maybe I need to send this case to somebody that knows about the Hague?

Natalie: Sure, well, I always look for if there’s for one, if you’re citizen, if your citizens sorry, if your clients one, or both of your clients, have citizenship in another country and have close ties in that country. Even if it’s not a hate case, yet, I do always tell my client that comes in and says, Look, I know that you don’t think you know, he or she will do this, but you need to get the child’s passport and put it in a safe place. Because once this happens, you know, then it’s a whole new ballgame. And depending on what country, if, like India, for instance, is I’ve had a lot of cases that people will come to me about hate cases. And I’m like, well, India is not a signatory to the Hague right now. So you can’t do anything under the Hague. There’s other things you can do. There’s other and I think India is moving. I don’t know if they’re moving towards actually becoming a signatory to the Hague, but they are moving towards recognizing other court orders from other countries on custody more so than maybe they used to. So you want to look at things like that to talk about whether or not that would be a Hague because you have to look at what countries any type of case where there’s a lot of citizenship issues or jobs that require a lot of movement around different countries, I’ve seen tend to have possibilities of Hake elements to be had. For instance, I have one now where, again, they were United States citizens, but living abroad, they worked in Singapore. One was a Canadian citizen, one’s a United States citizen, they’re living together, their kids are both United States citizens and Canadian citizens. One is also have some sort of citizenship in Singapore by virtue of birth, I don’t know it’s everywhere. And so now we’re in a mix where neither of them are in Singapore, but they both went to different countries. And now someone’s holding the kids. And is this a Hague? And where was the habitual residence? So it’s something that is being done on a family law basis, both here in Texas and Canada, but then there’s also a Hague element, which is how I got involved, because there is an issue of intent and where was habitual residence? And is there the possibility to have a Hague filed here? Just I think anytime you’re looking at parents or family that has a lot of different citizenships, or has resided or currently resides in a lot of different places, you just want to make sure and ask those questions about passports where citizenship and intention on where what is the intention on where you guys are supposed to be an intention on where you are going to raise your family because that can raise issues

Holly: So one final thing on the Hague are sort of hanging adjacent. Are there any related criminal statutes that people should be aware of? Where, you know, for example, I’ve had people say they’re citizens in another country, they moved here for one spouse’s job. One spouse isn’t happy about it, and they want to go back with the kids. Are there criminal issues, we need to be warning them about, like, Hey, you take the kids and go back to France. You could face criminal charges for this.

Natalie: So actually, yes, it’s a possibility. And again, the Hague is only civil. So this is outside the Hague, but under the Texas penal code, I think it’s section 25.03. There is an interface interference with child custody statute, which is a state jail felony felony. Now, it seems to me that this deals with having a court order and interfering with the with the custody. So I don’t necessarily think if there’s no court orders for custody, nothing’s been filed yet. So there’s not standing orders in place. I don’t necessarily think that under this statute, you have a problem regarding criminal issues. But definitely, if there are court orders, even whether they’re temporary final or temporary injunctions, I wouldn’t even say standing orders that are just put in place that I think this interference with child custody statute can be, you can be prosecuted under that.

Holly: So we’re basically out of time. But one thing I’d like to ask everybody who comes on the podcast is, if you could give one piece of advice to young family lawyers, what would it be?

Natalie: Okay, one piece of advice, I would say, and maybe this is two pieces, I would say find a mentor, you know, go to the CLAS, advanced family law, any of those big CLAS. And you would be surprised at how generous some of these older attorneys that you find they’re speaking and like wandering around, that will give their time and would love to just sit down and have you know, lunch or drink and share stories and give you advice. That’s a great way to find a good mentor, which I think is important in family law. And then my second piece would be read the lawyers creed, be familiar with it and treat your colleagues as you would like to be treated. It is a very small family law world. And you will be working with these people forever. And if you want to get involved in things and act and organizations, you want to have a good relationship with these people, and it just makes for a better practice. And you don’t want to be that person to give lawyers a bad name that we already tend to have out there. So those are my two pieces of advice.

Holly: I agree completely. Where can our listeners go if they want to learn more about you?

Natalie: You could go to I guess our website, my law firm website is And we also have a Facebook page. And that’s it. All right. Well, check us out.

Holly: Well, thank you so much for joining us today. I feel like I know a whole lot more about this topic than I did an hour ago. So thank you for that. For our listeners. If you enjoy this podcast, take a second to subscribe and leave us a review and enjoy future episodes.

Voiceover: The Texas Family Law Insiders podcast is sponsored by the Draper Law firm. We help people navigate divorce and child custody cases and handle family law appellate matters. For more information, visit our website at

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