Information on proceedings abroad

General Information

This page contains information about country-specific requirements and difficulties in proceedings carried out abroad based on the experience of the Federal Office of Justice as the Swiss central authority. The information does not guarantee completeness and accuracy in all proceedings.

The Federal Office of Justice will be happy to answer any questions you may have by telephone or e-mail.

The procedures and duration – in particular of return proceedings – depend to a large extent on the judicial system of the requested State. Even though the Convention provides for a rapid procedure, in practice proceedings may be protracted and complex.

The procedure at the first instance alone can last several months depending on the State involved. In addition, a first instance decision can be appealed in almost all States.

The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction expressly favours reaching an amicable agreement. Mediation is not offered in the same way and free of charge in all States.

Some central authorities (including those in France and the Czech Republic) have internal mediators; others (including Germany) offer access to a network through which mediation can be organised for a fee.

In the event of proceedings in court or before an authority, it is these bodies alone that decide on ordering the return of a child. Legal representation is not mandatory in all States and may not be necessary in some.

In some States, the return proceedings are normally managed by the public prosecutor’s office (Brazil, France, Portugal) or a State lawyer (Spain). In these States, there is no express requirement for a party to be represented by a lawyer. In other States, return proceedings involve two opposing parties (plaintiff versus defendant) and the parties are normally represented by their own lawyers (Germany, Finland, Poland, United Kingdom, USA).

However, the parties can always decide to be represented abroad by a lawyer.

  • The Convention provides that that the work done by the central authorities is free of charge. Court or administrative proceedings, including any necessary legal representation, are also free of charge.

    However, Contracting States may make it a condition that an exemption from costs is granted only in accordance with national rules on legal aid (see List of Contracting States). These rules can vary from one State to another. Due to the difference in purchasing power between certain countries and Switzerland, applicants from Switzerland, even if their income is low by Swiss standards, may not be granted legal aid e.g. in the USA).

    Some States will grant legal aid even though they made a reservation on costs (e.g. Finland and the United Kingdom [only in the case of return proceedings] and Bulgaria [provided that legal representation is provided through the central authority]). In some States in which the proceedings are conducted by the central authority or the prosecutor’s office (e.g. Brazil, France, Portugal, Spain and the Dominican Republic), you normally have to pay if you instruct a legal representative.

    Legal representation and court costs vary from country to country and are for the most part difficult to estimate. The translation costs for the documents to be provided are paid by the applicants. Certified translations are sometimes required (e.g. in Thailand and Poland).

  • List of contracting States (PDF, 140.60 KB)

Visitation rights proceedings are not facilitated in all States in the same way as return proceedings. Proceedings usually take longer and visitation rights are difficult to enforce.

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