The German Foreign Office and German diplomatic missions abroad receive constant requests for advice and assistance in cases were a husband, wife or partner, generally non-German, has taken a child or children abroad in breach of a sole or joint right of parental responsibility.
In such cases of cross-border child abductions the Foreign Office and diplomatic missions, unfortunately, have only limited scope to help directly with return of the child to Germany, as custody and residence matters are generally the sole responsibility of the courts and must therefore be resolved and enforced in the jurisdiction where the child is currently a resident. Under the principle of the division of powers which today applies in almost all countries, governments are constitutionally prevented from intervening in judicial matters.
This applies even when they are asked for help by the German Government and would like to cooperate in the light of good political relations. In every case the diplomatic missions will, in the interests of the child, advise on an amicable settlement with the party holding the child, offer mediation as far as possible and, if necessary, refer the person concerned to reliable lawyers.
Under certain circumstances, legal aid might be available in Germany in cases of international child abduction from the following charitable organisation:
Gemeinnütziger Verein zur Unterstützung von
Kriminalitätsopfern und zur Verhütung von Straftaten e.V.
Postfach 26 13 55
Tel.: 06131 / 83030
Fax: 06131 / 830345
The prime legal instrument in cases of international child abduction is the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction of October 15, 1980 (Federal Law Gazette, 1990, Part II, pp. 206 ff.), provided the child's new country of residence is, like Germany and the US, party to the Convention. Every country party to the Convention has instituted central authorities responsible for taking all appropriate measures to ensure the immediate return of children illegally taken to, or detained in, such country.
The relevant Central Authority in Germany is:
Bundesamt für Justiz
- Zentrale Behörde -
Adenauerallee 99 - 103
National: 0228 99 410 - 40 or - 5212
International: + 49 (228) 99 410 - 5212
National: 0228 99 410 - 5050 or - 5401
International: + 49 (228) 99 410 - 5401
The Central Authority in the US is:
Department of State
Office of Children's Issues
2201 C Street, NW
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC 20520-2818
Tel: 1-888-407-4747 (8 a.m. - 8 p.m.)
or (202) 736-9090
Fax: (202) 736-9133
Further information on how to proceed, in particular with regard to the applicability of the Convention in individual cases and whether there may be a right to legal aid in Germany or in the US, should be obtained from the Central Authorities. Generally the persons concerned should be advised to seek the advice of the following independent organisations:
Verband bi-nationaler Familien und Partnerschaften
Ludolfusstr. 2 - 4
Tel.: 069 / 7137560 o. 7075088
Fax: 069 / 7075092
Internationaler Sozialdienst e.V. (ISD)
Am Stockborn 5 - 7
Tel.: 069 / 9580702
Deutsches Rotes Kreuz
Beratungsstelle bei Kindesmitnahme/Kindesentzug
10179 Berlin (Mitte)
Tel.: 030 / 2826731 o. 63
Fax: 030 / 2386704
In the US:
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
Charles B. Wang International Children's building
699 Prince Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314 - 3175
The National Center can provide addresses and telephone numbers of Local Advice Bureaus.