They call themselves Expat Stuck Mums, but this is no club of cheery women living the high life in the sun – instead, they are all battling for the right to take their children home from a foreign country, under a sometimes baffling international legal convention. And their numbers are growing.
At the root of their problem is what happens when a couple from the same country split up after a move abroad, and one parent decides they want to stay in the new country.
The Hague convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction 1980 stipulates that one parent cannot take a child from its country of “habitual residence” without the consent of the other parent, and that any request to leave the country must be settled in the family court of that country.
This law does not take in to account short-term moves or trial migrations, and there is no fixed definition of what constitutes a child’s habitual residence: in some cases it can change the moment a plane touches the ground on foreign soil. It depends on individual judges, often in small courts in rural areas where these sorts of family disputes are new and unfamiliar to local cultures. For the Expat Stuck Mums, they face being prosecuted for parental child abduction if they return home with their children, or accused of abandoning them if they go home alone to try to fight the legal system from their home country.
Date: 16 May 2015
Writer: Amelia Hill
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