Hague Convention On The Civil Aspects Of International Child
On 20 November 1996 the President assented to the Hague Convention On The Civil Aspects Of International Child. The entire Act can be found at the end of this article.
South Africa ratified the Convention in 1996 and the Act came into operation on 1 October 1997. The Convention’s main object is to enforce rights of custody over a child(ren) who has been wrongfully removed to or kept in a foreign country in breach of those rights and to secure the prompt return of the child(ren) to South Africa. https://www.justice.gov.za/hague/main.htm
Below is the complete Convention found at https://www.gov.za/sites/default/files/gcis_document/201409/a72-96.pdf .
NO. 72 OF 1996: HAGUE CONVENTION ON THE CIVIL ASPECTS OF INTERNATIONAL CHILD
20 November 1996
NO. 72 OF 1996: HAGUE CONVENTION ON THE CIVIL ASPECTS OF INTERNATIONAL CHILD
ABDUCTION ACT, 1996.
It is hereby notified that the President has assented to the following Act which is hereby published for general information:-
To provide for the application in the Republic of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction; and to provide for matters connected therewith.
(English text signed by the President.)
(Assented to 6 November 1996.)
BE IT ENACTED by the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa. as
1. In this Act, unless the context otherwise indicates-
(i) “Central Authority” means the Central Authority designated in terms
of section 3; (v)
(ii) “Convention” means the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of
International Child Abduction, adopted on 25 October 1980 at The Hague, and set out in the Schedule; (ii)
(iii) “Minister” means the Minister of Justice; (iii)
(iv) “regulation” means a regulation made under this Act; (iv)
(v) “this Act” includes the regulations. (i)
Application of Convention
2. The Convention shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, apply in the Republic.
Designation of Central Authority
3. For the purposes of Article 6 of the Convention the Chief Family
Advocate appointed by the Minister in terms of the Mediation in Certain Divorce Matters
Act, 1987 (Act No. 24 of 1987), is hereby designated as the Central Authority
for the Republic.
4. (1) The Central Authority may, subject to such conditions as he or she
may impose, delegate or assign any power or duty conferred or imposed upon him or her by or under the Convention to any Family Advocate appointed in terms of the Mediation in Certain Divorce Matters Act, 1987 (Act No. 24 of 1987).
(2) The delegation, assignment and conditions imposed shall be in writing.
5. (1) The Minister may make regulations-
(a) to give effect to any provision of the Convention; and
(b) prescribing fees, and providing for the recovery of any expenditure
incurred, in connection with the application of the Convention.
(2) A regulation made under subsection (1) may prescribe a penalty of a fine or of imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months for any contravention thereof or failure to comply therewith.
(3) Any regulation made under subsection (1) shall be laid upon the Table in Parliament within 14 days after the publication thereof in the Gazette if Parliament is then in ordinary session, or, if Parliament is not in ordinary session, within 14 days after the commencement of the next ensuing ordinary
(4) Any regulation referred to in subsection (3) or any provision thereof may, by resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament during the session in which such regulation has been laid upon the Table, be rejected, and if the
said regulation or provision is so rejected the provisions of section 12(2) of
the Interpretation Act, 1957 (Act No. 33 of 1957), shall apply as if such
resolution were a law repealing the regulation or provision in question.
Short title and commencement
6.This Act shall be called the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of
International Child Abduction Act, 1996, and shall come into operation on a
date fixed by the President by proclamation in the Gazette.
CONVENTION ON THE CIVIL ASPECTS OF INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION
The States signatory to the present Convention-
Firmly convinced that the interests of children are of paramount importance
in matters relating to their custody. Desiring to protect children internationally from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention and to establish procedures to ensure their prompt return to the State of their habitual residence, as well as to secure protection for rights of access. Have resolved to conclude a Convention to this effect, and have agreed upon the following provisions-
SCOPE OF THE CONVENTION
The objects of the present Convention area to secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to or retained in any Contracting State; and
b to ensure that rights of custody and of access under the law of one
Contracting State are effectively respected in the other Contracting States.
Contracting States shall take all appropriate measures to secure within
their territories the implementation of the objects of the Convention. For this purpose they shall use the most expeditious procedures available.
The removal or the retention of a child is to be considered wrongful wherea
it is in breach of rights of custody attributed to a person, an institution
or any other body, either jointly or alone, under the law of the State in
which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or
b at the time of removal or retention those rights were actually exercised,
either jointly or alone, or would have been so exercised but for the removal
The rights of custody mentioned in subparagraph a above, may arise in
particular by operation of law or by reason of a judicial or administrative
decision, or by reason of an agreement having legal effect under the law of
The Convention shall apply to any child who was habitually resident in a
Contracting State immediately before any breach of custody or access rights.
The Convention shall cease to apply when the child attains the age of 16 years.
For the purposes of this Conventiona
rights of custody” shall include rights relating to the care of the person of
the child and, in particular, the right to determine the child’s place of residence
b “rights of access” shall include the right to take a child for a limited
period of time to a place other than the child’s habitual residence.
A Contracting State shall designate a Central Authority to discharge the
duties which are imposed by the Convention upon such authorities.
Federal States, States with more than one system of law or States having
autonomous territorial organizations shall be free to appoint more than one
Central Authority and to specify the territorial extent of their powers.
Where a State has appointed more than one Central Authority, it shall designate the
Central Authority to which applications may be addressed for transmission to the appropriate Central Authority within that State.
Central Authorities shall co-operate with each other and promote co-operation amongst the competent authorities in their respective States to secure the prompt return of children and to achieve the other objects of this Convention.
In particular, either directly or through any intermediary, they shall take
all appropriate measures
a to discover the whereabouts of a child who has been wrongfully removed or
b to prevent further harm to the child or prejudice to interested parties by
taking or causing to be taken provisional measures;
c to secure the voluntary return of the child or to bring about an amicable
resolution of the issues;
d to exchange, where desirable, information relating to the social background
of the child;
e to provide information of a general character as to the law of their State
in connection with the application of the Convention;
f to initiate or facilitate the institution of judicial or administrative
proceedings with a view to obtaining the return of the child and, in a
proper case, to make arrangements for organizing or securing the effective exercise
of rights of access;
g where the circumstances so require, to provide or facilitate the provision
of legal aid and advice, including the participation of legal counsel and
h to provide such administrative arrangements as may be necessary and
appropriate to secure the safe return of the child;
i to keep each other informed with respect to the operation of this Convention
and, as far as possible, to eliminate any obstacles to its application.
RETURN OF CHILDREN
Any person, institution or other body claiming that a child has been removed or retained in breach of custody rights may apply either to the Central Authority of the child’s habitual residence or to the Central Authority of any other Contracting State for assistance in securing the return of the child.
The application shall contain
a information concerning the identity of the applicant, of the child and of
the person alleged to have removed or retained the child;
b where available, the date of birth of the child;
c the grounds on which the applicant’s claim for return of the child is based:
d all available information relating to the whereabouts of the child and the identity of the person with whom the child is presumed to be. The application may be accompanied or supplemented by
e an authenticated copy of any relevant decision or agreement;
f a certificate or an affidavit emanating from a Central Authority, or other
competent authority of the State of the child’s habitual residence, or from
a qualified person, concerning the relevant law of that State;
g any other relevant documents.
If the Central Authority which receives an application referred to in
Article 8 has reason to believe that the child is in another Contracting
State, it shall directly and without delay transmit the application to the Central
Authority of that Contracting State and inform the requesting Central
Authority or the applicant, as the case may be.
The Central Authority of the State where the child is shall take or cause
tobe taken all appropriate measures in order to obtain the voluntary return of
The judicial or administrative authorities of Contracting States shall act
expeditiously in proceedings for the return of children.
If the judicial or administrative authority concerned has not reached a
decision within six weeks from the date of commencement of the proceedings,
the applicant or the Central Authority of the requested State, on its own
initiative or if asked by the Central Authority of the requesting State, shall
have the right to request a statement of the reasons for the delay. If a
reply is received by the Central Authority of the requested State, that Authority
shall transmit the reply to the Central Authority of the requesting State, or
to the applicant, as the case may be.
Where a child has been wrongfully removed or retained in terms of Article 3
and, at the date of the commencement of the proceedings before the judicial or
administrative authority of the Contracting State where the child is, a period
of less than one year has elapsed from the date of the wrongful removal or
retention, the authority concerned shall order the return of the child
The judicial or administrative authority, even where the proceedings have
been commenced after the expiration of the period of one year referred to in
the preceding paragraph, shall also order the return of the child, unless it
is demonstrated that the child is now settled in its new environment.
Where the judicial or administrative authority in the requested State has
reason to believe that the child has been taken to another State, it may stay
the proceedings or dismiss the application for the return of the child.
Notwithstanding the provisions of the preceding Article, the judicial or
administrative authority of the requested State is not bound to order the
return of the child if the person, institution or other body which opposes its
return establishes that
a the person, institution or other body having the care of the person of the
child was not actually exercising the custody rights at the time of removal
or retention, or had consented to or subsequently acquiesced in the removal
or retention; or
b there is a grave risk that his or her return would expose the child to
physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an
The judicial or administrative authority may also refuse to order the
return of the child if it finds that the child objects to being returned and has
attained an age and degree of maturity at which it is appropriate to take
account of its views.
In considering the circumstances referred to in this Article, the judicial
and administrative authorities shall take into account the information
relating to the social background of the child provided by the Central Authority or
other competent authority of the child’s habitual residence.
In ascertaining whether there has been a wrongful removal or retention
within the meaning of Article 3, the judicial or administrative authorities of
the requested State may take notice directly of the law of, and of judicial or
administrative decisions, formally recognized or not in the State of the
habitual residence of the child, without recourse to the specific procedures
for the proof of that law or for the recognition of foreign decisions which
would otherwise be applicable.
The judicial or administrative authorities of a Contracting State may,
to the making of an order for the return of the child, request that the
applicant obtain from the authorities of the State of the habitual residence
the child a decision or other determination that the removal or retention was
wrongful within the meaning of Article 3 of the Convention, where such a
decision or determination may be obtained in that State. The Central
Authorities of the Contracting States shall so far as practicable assist
applicants to obtain such a decision or determination.
After receiving notice of a wrongful removal or retention of a child in the
sense of Article 3, the judicial or administrative authorities of the
Contracting State to which the child has been removed or in which it has been
retained shall not decide on the merits of rights of custody until it has been
determined that the child is not to be returned under this Convention or
an application under this Convention is not lodged within a reasonable time
following receipt of the notice.
The sole fact that a decision relating to custody has been given in or is
entitled to recognition in the requested State shall not be a ground for
refusing to return a child under this Convention, but the judicial or
administrative authorities of the requested State may take account of the
reasons for that decision in applying this Convention.
The provisions of this Chapter do not limit the power of a judicial or
administrative authority to order the return of the child at any time.
A decision under this Convention concerning the return of the child shall
not be taken to be a determination on the merits of any custody issue.
The return of the child under the provisions of Article 12 may be refused
this would not be permitted by the fundamental principles of the requested
State relating to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
RIGHTS OF ACCESS
An application to make arrangements for organizing or securing the
exercise of rights of access may be presented to the Central Authorities of
Contracting States in the same way as an application for the return of a
The Central Authorities are bound by the obligations of co-operation which
are set forth in Article 7 to promote the peaceful enjoyment of access rights
and the fulfilment of any conditions to which the exercise of those rights may
be subject. The Central Authorities shall take steps to remove, as far as
possible, all obstacles to the exercise of such rights. The Central
Authorities, either directly or through intermediaries, may initiate or assist
in the institution of proceedings with a view to organizing or protecting
rights and securing respect for the conditions to which the exercise of these
rights may be subject.
No security, bond or deposit, however described, shall be required to
guarantee the payment of costs and expenses in the judicial or administrative
proceedings falling within the scope of this Convention.
No legalization or similar formality may be required in the context of this
Any application, communication or other document sent to the Central
Authority of the requested State shall be in the original language, and shall
be accompanied by a translation into the official language or one of the
official languages of the requested State or, where that is not feasible, a
translation into French or English.
However, a Contracting State may, by making a reservation in accordance
Article 42, object to the use of either French or English, but not both, in
application, communication or other document sent to its Central Authority.
Nationals of the Contracting States and persons who are habitually resident
within those States shall be entitled in matters concerned with the
of this Convention to legal aid and advice in any other Contracting State on
the same conditions as if they themselves were nationals of and habitually
resident in that State.
Each Central Authority shall bear its own costs in applying this
Central Authorities and other public services of Contracting States shall
not impose any charges in relation to applications submitted under this
Convention. In particular, they may not require any payment from the
towards the costs and expenses of the proceedings or, where applicable, those
arising from the participation of legal counsel or advisers. However, they
require the payment of the expenses incurred or to be incurred in implementing
the return of the child.
However, a Contracting State may, by making a reservation in accordance
Article 42, declare that it shall not be bound to assume any costs referred to
in the preceding paragraph resulting from the participation of legal counsel
advisers or from court proceedings, except insofar as those costs may be
covered by its system of legal aid and advice.
Upon ordering the return of a child or issuing an order concerning rights
access under this Convention, the judicial or administrative authorities may,
where appropriate, direct the person who removed or retained the child, or who
prevented the exercise of rights of access, to pay necessary expenses incurred
by or on behalf of the applicant, including travel expenses, any costs
or payments made for locating the child, the costs of legal representation of
the applicant, and those of returning the child.
When it is manifest that the requirements of this Convention are not
fulfilled or that the application is otherwise not well founded, a Central
Authority is not bound to accept the application. In that case the Central
Authority shall forthwith inform the applicant or the Central Authority
which the application was submitted, as the case may be, of its reasons.
A Central Authority may require that the application be accompanied by a
written authorization empowering it to act on behalf of the applicant, or to
designate a representative so to act.
This Convention shall not preclude any person, institution or body who
claims that there has been a breach of custody or access rights within the
meaning of Article 3 or 21 from applying directly to the judicial or
administrative authorities of a Contracting State, whether or not under the
provisions of this Convention.
Any application submitted to the Central Authorities or directly to the
judicial or administrative authorities of a Contracting State in accordance
with the terms of this Convention, together with documents and any other
information appended thereto or provided by a Central Authority, shall be
admissible in the courts or administrative authorities of the Contracting
In relation to a State which in matters of custody of children has two or
more systems of law applicable in different territorial unitsa
any reference to habitual residence in that State shall be construed as
referring to habitual residence in a territorial unit of that State;
b any reference to the law of the State of habitual residence shall be
construed as referring to the law of the territorial unit in that State
the child habitually resides.
In relation to a State which in matters of custody of children has two or
more systems of law applicable to different categories of persons, any
reference to the law of that State shall be construed as referring to the
system specified by the law of that State.
A State within which different territorial units have their own rules of
in respect of custody of children shall not be bound to apply this Convention
where a State with a unified system of law would not be bound to do so.
This Convention shall take priority in matters within its scope over the
Convention of 5 October 1961 concerning the powers of authorities and the law
applicable in respect of the protection of minors, as between Parties to both
Conventions. Otherwise the present Convention shall not restrict the
application of an international instrument in force between the State of
and the State addressed or other law of the State addressed for the purposes
obtaining the return of a child who has been wrongfully removed or retained or
of organizing access rights.
This Convention shall apply as between Contracting States only to wrongful
removals or retentions occurring after its entry into force in those States.
Where a declaration has been made under Article 39 or 40, the reference in
the preceding paragraph to a Contracting State shall be taken to refer to the
territorial unit or units in relation to which this Convention applies.
Nothing in this Convention shall prevent two or more Contracting States, in
order to limit the restrictions to which the return of the child may be
subject, from agreeing among themselves to derogate from any provisions of
Convention which may imply such a restriction.
The Convention shall be open for signature by the States which were Members
of the Hague Conference on Private International Law at the time of its
Fourteenth Session. It shall be ratified, accepted or approved and the
instruments of ratification, acceptance or approval shall be deposited with
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Any other State may accede to the Convention.
The instrument of accession shall be deposited with the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The Convention shall enter into force for a State acceding to it on the
first day of the third calendar month after the deposit of its instrument of
The accession will have effect only as regard the relations between the
acceding State and such Contracting States as will have declared their
acceptance of the accession.
Such a declaration will also have to be made by any Member State ratifying,
accepting or approving the Convention after an accession. Such declaration
shall be deposited at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the
Netherlands: the Ministry shall forward through diplomatic channels, a
certified copy to each of the Contracting States.
The Convention will enter into force as between the acceding State and the
State that has declared its acceptance of the accession on the first day of
third calendar month after the deposit of the declaration of acceptance.
Any State may, at the time of signature, ratification, acceptance, approval
or accession, declare that the Convention shall extend to all the territories
for the international relations of which it is responsible, or to one or more
of them. Such a declaration shall take effect at the time the Convention
enters into force for that State.
Such declaration, as well as any subsequent extension, shall be notified to
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
If a Contracting State has two or more territorial units in which different
systems of law are applicable in relation to matters dealt with in this
Convention, it may at the time of signature, ratification, acceptance,
or accession declare that this Convention shall extend to all its territorial
units or only to one or more of them and may modify this declaration by
submitting another declaration at any time.
Any such declaration shall be notified to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
the Kingdom of the Netherlands and shall state expressly the territorial units
to which the Convention applies.
Where a Contracting State has a system of government under which executive,
judicial and legislative powers are distributed between central and other
authorities within that State, its signature or ratification, acceptance or
approval of or accession to this Convention, or its making of any declaration
in terms of Article 40 shall carry no implication as to the internal
distribution of powers within that State.
Any State may, not later than the time of ratification, acceptance,
or accession, or at the time of making a declaration in terms of Article 39 or
40 make one or both of the reservations provided for in Article 24 and Article
26, third paragraph. No other reservation shall be permitted.
Any State may at any time withdraw a reservation it has made. The
withdrawal shall be notified to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom
of the Netherlands. The reservation shall cease to have effect on the first
day of the third calendar month after the notification referred to in the
The Convention shall enter into force on the first day of the third
month after the deposit of the third instruments of ratification, acceptance,
approval or accession referred to in Articles 37 and 38.
Thereafter the Convention shall enter into force-
1 for each State ratifying, accepting, approving or acceding to it
subsequently, on the first day of the third calendar month after the deposit
of its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession;
2 for any territory or territorial unit to which the Convention has been
extended in conformity with Article 39 or 40, on the first day of the third
calendar month after the notification referred to in that Article.
The Convention shall remain in force for five years from the date of its
entry into force in accordance with the first paragraph of Article 43 even for
States which subsequently have ratified, accepted, approved it or acceded to
Any denunciation shall be notified to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of
Kingdom of the Netherlands at least six months before the expiry of the five
year period. It may be limited to certain of the territories or territorial
units to which the Convention applies.
The denunciation shall have effect only as regards the State which has
notified it. The Convention shall remain in force for the other Contracting
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands shall
notify the States Members of the Conference, and the States which have acceded
in accordance with Article 38, of the following-
1 the signatures and ratifications, acceptances and approvals referred to in
2 the accessions referred to in Article 38;
3 the date on which the Convention enters into force in accordance with
4 the extensions referred to in Article 39;
5 the declarations referred to in Articles 38 and 40;
6 the reservations referred to in Article 24 and Article 26, third paragraph
and the withdrawals referred to in Article 42; and
7 the denunciations referred to in Article 44.
In witness whereof the undersigned, being duly authorized thereto, have
signed this Convention.
Done at The Hague, on the 25th day of October 1980 in the English and
languages, both texts being equally authentic in a single copy which shall be
deposited in the archives of the Government of the Kingdom of the
and of which a certified copy shall be sent through diplomatic channels to
of the States Members of the Hague Conference on Private International Law at
the date of its Fourteenth Session.