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Belgium is a member of several international agreements governing unlawful movements and international abduction of children

European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights requires Member States to favour keeping parents and their children together. This obligation must be construed in the light of the Hague Convention, but also in compliance of article 6 (1) of the ECHR and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The essential role of the Hague Convention

The Hague Convention is regularly applied by Belgian courts and tribunals: the family court must allocate the competence of handling claims and ruling on these “as summary proceedings” and in principle in camera (article 1322 bis-1322 octies, court of justice).

The aim of the Convention is:

In each State, a “central authority” is in charge of promoting collaboration between the competent authorities to ensure the return of children and to carry out other objectives of the Convention (article 6-7).

Non-representation of a child by a parent: criminal penalty

Article 432 of the Criminal Code sanctions a parent’s violation of a judgment ruling on the housing of a minor child.

This could be a judgment given by Belgian court or a foreign court (if the latter is covered by an exequatur).

Violation of a court decision consists of non-representation, attempted abduction and abduction of the child—even with the child’s consent. The Final Court of Appeal has ruled that one parent abstaining from reasoning or attempting to convince the children to stay with the other parent constitutes a reprehensible abstention under article 432 of the Criminal Code.

 Children taken or kept abroad by one of their parents

A parent whose child has been taken and/or kept abroad by the other parent can file a claim for the return of the child before the federal body that performs the role of the Belgian central authority, when:


Request for a return of the child entered before the Belgian central authority

The victim parent must issue a power of attorney to the Belgian central authority and to the foreign central authority in order to act on his behalf.

Role of the Belgian central authority

The Belgian central authority can only act when a regulation (concerning international child abductions) covers both Belgium and the country where the child is located.

In this case, the central authority:


If there is no international regulation in force, if the central authority does not have competency, other competent bodies are then sought out such as the Belgian Federal Public Service (SPF) for Foreign Affairs.