A statistical analysis of applications made in 2015 under the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction — Summary of global report (Part 1)
Hague Convention Preliminary Procedural Document No 11 A of October 2017 (provisional edition, pending the completion of the French version)
- Authors: Professor Nigel Lowe and Victoria Stephens
- Related document: Preliminary Document No 11 B of October 2017: Regional report
PART I: GLOBAL REPORT
1. Background and rationale of the project
- This is the fourth research study to look into the operation of the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (hereinafter, “the 1980 Hague Convention”). The study has been conducted by Professor Nigel Lowe and Victoria Stephens, in consultation with the Permanent Bureau and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC).  Special thanks are given to ICMEC which generously funded the project and provided support throughout.
- This Survey concerns all applications received by Central Authorities in 2015 and will use the findings of previous studies of 1999, 2003 and 2008 to provide an analysis of statistical trends over a 16-year period.
- In all we received responses from 72 Contracting States and estimate that this captures 94% of all applications. We have experienced generous co-operation from Central Authorities who have given their time to provide us with their information and to answer subsequent queries. In producing this report, we are indebted to the Central Authorities for their hard work and co-operation and to ICMEC for their additional assistance in inputting data into INCASTAT.
- The questionnaire concerns all applications received by Central Authorities between 1 January 2015 and 31 December 2015. Outcomes of applications were recorded up to 18 months after the last possible application could have been made, namely 30 June 2017. Applications unresolved after that date have simply been classified as “pending”. Accordingly, 2015 was chosen to give as contemporaneous a view as possible in relation to the holding of the Seventh Meeting of the Special Commission in October 2017.
- Although the questionnaire was essentially the same as before, for the first time information has been collected via the INCASTAT online database.
- As in previous Surveys, the analysis is based on information provided by Central Authorities in particular in relation to: the number of applications they received; the “taking persons” in return applications and the “respondents” in access applications; the children involved; the outcomes of the applications; and the length of time it took to reach a final outcome.
- The data contained in this report was submitted by Central Authorities from their own records. We have primarily relied upon the data from incoming applications (Forms A2 and B2 on INCASTAT) but have also used the data from outgoing applications to calculate overall numbers.
B. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
- Replies have been received from 72 of the 93 Contracting States that were Party to the 1980 Hague Convention in 2015 (there are now 98 following the accession of Bolivia, Jamaica, Pakistan, Philippines and Tunisia). Detailed information has been provided on a total of 2,560 incoming applications, comprising 2,191 return and 369 access applications. We estimate that this captures 94% of all applications made to Central Authorities in 2015.
- Making a direct comparison with the 2008 Survey, there has been a 3% increase in return applications but a 3% decrease in access applications. 
1. Return applications
- 73% of taking persons were mothers, a higher proportion than the 69%recorded in 2008, 68% in 2003 and 69% in 1999. In 2015, 24% of the taking persons were fathers and the remaining 2% comprised grandparents, institutions or other relatives.
- Where the information was available, the large majority (83%) of taking persons were the “primary carer” or “joint-primary carer” of the child.  Where the taking person was the mother, this figure was 92% but only 60% where the taking person was the father. 58% of taking persons travelled to a State of which they were a national. Proportionately more taking fathers (64%) had the same nationality as the Requested State compared with 56% of mothers.
- At least 2,904 children were involved in the 2,191 return applications, making an average of 1.3 children per application. A large majority of applications (70%) involved a single child and there were close to equal numbers of boys and girls with 53% of children being male and 47% female. The average age of a child involved in a return application was 6.8 years.
- The overall return rate was 46%, the same as in 2008 but lower than the 51% in 2003 and 50% in 1999. This return rate comprised 17% voluntary returns and 28% judicial returns. A further 3% of applications concluded with access being agreed or ordered which was the same as in in 2008 and 2003. 12% of applications ended in a judicial refusal (less than the 15% in 2008 and 13% in 2003, though higher than the 11% in 1999), 14% were withdrawn (18% in 2008, 15% in 2003 and 14% in 1999) and the number of applications still pending at the cutoff date of 30 June 2017 was 5% (compared with 8% in 2008, 9% in 2003 and 9% in 1999). There was a decrease in the rate of rejection by the Central Authorities under Article 27 with 3% of applications ending in this way in 2015 (compared with 5% in 2008, 6% in 2003 and 11% in 1999).
- In 2015, 42% of applications were decided in court (44% in 2008, 44% in 2003 and 43% in 1999). 67% of court decisions resulted in a judicial return order being made compared with 61% in 2008, 66% in 2003 and 74% in 1999.
- In 2015, 238 applications ended in a judicial refusal. Some cases were refused for more than one reason and if all reasons are combined, the most frequently relied upon ground for refusal was Article 13(1)(b) (42 applications, 26%) and the child not being habitually resident in the Requested State (43 applications, 27%). Article 12 was a reason for refusal in 26 applications (16%) and the child’s objections in 25 applications (16%).
- In 2015, applications were generally resolved more quickly, compared with the 2008 Survey. The average time taken to reach a decision of judicial return was 158 days (compared with 166 days in 2008, 125 days in 2003 and 107 in 1999) and a judicial refusal took an average of 244 days (compared with 286 days in 2008, 233 days in 2003 and 147 days in 1999). For applications resulting in a voluntary return the average time taken was 108 days, compared with 121 days in 2008, 98 days in 2003 and 84 days in 1999.
- 32% of all applications decided in court involved an appeal, an increase on the 24% in 2008. In 70% the same outcome was reached on appeal as at first instance, compared with 80% in 2008.
2. Access applications
- In the 369 access applications made under Article 21 in 2015, 74% of respondents were mothers (79% in 2008, 79% in 2003 and 86% in 1999).
- 58% of respondents had the same nationality as the Requested State compared with 50% in 2008, 53% in 2003 and 40% in 1999.
- 75% of applications concerned a single child with an average of 1.3 children per application. The overall average age of a child involved was 8 years and 51% of children were female and 49% male.
- The overall rate at which access was agreed or ordered was 27%, compared with 21% in 2008, 33% in 2003 and 43% in 1999. 20% of applications were withdrawn (31% in 2008, 22% in 2003 and 26% in 1999), 17% pending and 31% ending in reasons described as “other”. 4% were rejected and 2% judicially refused.
- Access applications took longer to resolve than return applications. The average time taken to reach a final outcome was 254 days overall, 97 days if there was a voluntary agreement for access, 291 days if access was judicially ordered and 266 days if access was refused. These timings are considerably faster than those in 2008 when the overall average was 339 days, 309 days where there was a voluntary agreement, 357 days where access was judicially ordered and 276 days if access was judicially refused.
 Professor Nigel Lowe is Emeritus Professor of Law at Cardiff University and Victoria Stephens is a freelance research consultant based in Lyon.
 This was calculated using information on incoming applications and, for States which did not respond to the Survey, using information from the outgoing cases database (INCASTAT database Forms A1 and B1). This can be compared with responses from 60 Contracting States for the 2008 Survey, 58 Contracting States in 2003 and 39 Contracting States in the 1999 Survey.
 Special thanks go to Thea Philip, Matt Hensch, Katie Lindahl, Hannah Lyden, Krati Jain, Elizabeth Phillips, Abbe Horswill and Sandra Marchenko at ICMEC. We are also grateful to Professor Costanza Honorati, Professor Olga Kharzova, Judge Mônica Sifuentes, Professor Hazel Thompson-Ahye and Dr Katarina Trimmings for their help in contacting Central Authorities.
 This was calculated using information from outgoing cases (INCASTAT database Forms A1 and B1) and an estimate of applications between States that did not respond to the Survey. This can be compared with responses from 60 Contracting States for the 2008 Survey, 58 Contracting States in 2003 and 39 Contracting States in the 1999 Survey.
 To gain a direct comparison, data from 2015 has been compared with that for only the States that responded to both Surveys. The applications made and received by States that implemented the 1980 Hague Convention after 2008 have also been excluded for these purposes.
 20% were the sole primary carer of the child and 63% were a joint primary carer. These figures have been rounded up.
 Either their sole nationality was the same as the Requested State or they held dual or triple nationality, one of which was that of the Requested State.  Though it should be noted that a further 84 applications ended in some other voluntary agreement. See further Section D.4.b. The final outcomes agreed by consent.