International Law: Hague Conventions

Hague Convention, Hague Conference, International Treaty, intergovernmental initiative, People holding different flags. Back view. Sunny evening sky background.

Any practicing international law firm worth their weight should be immediately familiar with Hague Conventions. They have been pivotal in defining many of the laws helping to govern internationally. That is to say, these multilateral agreements stem from more than a hundred years of cooperation. However, it may be surprising to learn there is not one, but some 40 different Hague Conventions. Each of them focusing on unique aspects of international law. We’ll highlight the Convention’s deep impacts on international law, and focus in particular on a Boyer specialty – international family law.

What is the Hague Conference?

The first Hague Conference was held in The Hague, Netherlands in 1893. Formally known as ‘The Hague Conference on Private International Law’, or HCCH, this global intergovernmental organization today brings together 84 states, including the U.S, and the European Union. The organization works to progressively unify the rules of private international law for the betterment of all. 

Differences Between ‘Hague Conference’ & ‘Hague Convention’

The objective of the Hague Conference is to create judicial cooperation between member states to limit issues prevailing international law. For example, conventions exist on forum shopping and fraud of judgments. To clarify, the Conference drafts, negotiates, and ratifies agreements, or ‘Conventions’, aimed at respecting the member country’s judicial authority. This is done by ensuring recognition of foreign judgments.

Various Hague Conventions touch on aspects of litigant privacy. But, not all litigants are equal before the law from one member state to another. For instance, the Conventions are not all ratified by the entirety of the member states comprising the organization. Most importantly, some Conventions are signed by the members but then are not ratified; Unfortunately, this renders them not applicable in the territories which have not ratified the act. However, even if not ratified, the Conventions still help retain a level of influence on the assessment of facts by courts. On the other hand, there are many Hague Conventions that are of universal application because they relate to universally-accepted points.

Hague Conventions Concerning Family Law 

Certainly, the most well-known Hague Conventions are the Conventions ratified by the greatest number of member states. In family law, there are several momentous Conventions that have helped shape the legal landscape:

  • Convention on the International Parental Abduction of Children
    Desires to protect children internationally from harmful removal and to help them return to their families. Ratified on October 25, 1980.
  • Convention on the International Adoption of Children
    Concerns the powers of authorities, the applicable law, and the recognition of decisions in matters of international adoption. Ratified by the Hague Convention of November 15, 1965. 
  • Convention on International Administration of Estates
    Addresses the conflicts of laws relating to the form of testamentary provisions. Ratified by the Hague Convention of October 5, 1961 and the Hague Convention of October 2, 1973.
  • Convention on the Law Applicable to Maintenance Obligations in Respect of Children
    Desires to establish common laws applicable to the maintenance obligations of adults . Ratified by the Hague Conventions of 24 October 1956, April 15, 1958, and October 2, 1973.
  • Convention for the Recognition of Divorces
    Aimed at facilitating the recognition of divorces and legal separations of citizens within different member states. Ratified by the Hague Convention of June 1, 1970.
  • Convention for the Law Applicable to Matrimonial Property Regimes
    Ratified by the Hague Convention of March 14, 1978.

Above all, to determine if one of the Hague Conventions applies to your unique situation, there are a few considerations. Firstly, where did the event take place? Secondly, is that place a member state of HCCH? Likewise, is the issue something the member state has ratified at a convention? Further, what is the applicable rule of international law within the convention? Sound easy?

Navigating International Family Law Issues 

Instead of trying to figure out complex international law issues yourself, call on our experienced team of international attorneys. Moreover, our managing attorney, Francis M. Boyer is one of only a few attorneys in the entire U.S. to achieve Board Certification in International Law. Our dedicated team reviews all of the facts surrounding your case and helps you understand all your options going forward. Contact us now.