Article | Last updated: 2016-07-01 | Ministry of Children and Equality
Norway has ratified the 1996 Hague Convention. The Convention and the Norwegian implementation act enter into force on 1 July 2016.
This will make it possible to resolve more international parental disputes and child welfare cases in accordance with the best interests of the child. Requests from other contracting states relating to the Convention are to be directed to the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir), which is Norway’s central authority under the Convention.
Closer cooperation with other states on parental conflicts and child welfare cases
Children who have ties to more than one country may be more vulnerable than other children. Today, more and more children and parents have ties to more than one country. This has led to a growing number of international parental disputes and child welfare cases that are difficult for the Norwegian authorities to deal with. Norway’s ratification of the 1996 Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children (the 1996 Hague Convention) will strengthen our cooperation with other states on dealing with cross-border parental conflicts and child welfare cases. The child welfare services, the county social welfare boards and the courts will now have a framework and various tools that will make it easier to deal with cases of this kind. Foreign authorities will have a contact point in Norway, namely the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir), Norway’s central authority under the Convention.
The most important points in the Convention
The Convention applies to protection measures in the form of legal or administrative decisions concerning parental responsibility, place of residence, rights of access, guardianship, the placement of the child in a foster family or in institutional care, and the administration of the child’s property. It also applies to parental responsibility that has been granted by law or by an agreement. Parental responsibility granted by law or agreement in the child’s country of habitual residence subsists even if the child’s country of habitual residence changes.
Under the 1996 Hague Convention, it is the state in which the child is habitually resident that can take measures for the protection of the child. However, the state in which the child is currently present may take measures for the protection of the child in urgent cases, or take provisional measures. Under the Convention, jurisdiction may be transferred to another contracting state when this is considered to be in the best interests of the child.
The Convention includes provisions on the recognition and enforcement of protection measures that have been taken in other states. This will ensure that any protection measures follow the child, even if the child is visiting – or has moved to – another state. The Convention applies to recognition and enforcement of measures taken after its entry into force, in the states concerned.
The Convention also facilitates cooperation and the exchange of information in individual cases between contracting states. The Convention’s mechanisms for cooperation and exchange of information may be used in all cases, including in cases that began before 1 July 2016, when the Convention enters into force for Norway.
The Convention’s provisions and cooperation mechanisms facilitate continued rights of access and contact between parent and child, even if the child moves to another state with one of the parents. The mechanisms for cooperation also make it easier for the child welfare services to obtain information about the child and the child’s relatives abroad.
Application of the Convention
The Convention is to be applied by the relevant authorities, i.e. those responsible for taking measures for the protection of a child, or for assessing who has parental responsibility or guardianship of the child. In other words, the Convention is to be applied by courts, the child welfare services, the county social welfare boards, the County Governor and other authorities that make decisions in parental disputes and child welfare cases.
The Convention also has provisions relating to the rights of parents and what they can do to prevent and resolve parental disputes and child welfare cases. Under the Convention, parents may request a certificate indicating who has parental responsibility or guardianship of the child under Norwegian law, to make it easier to deal with cases in states other than the one where parental responsibility or guardianship was granted. Parents may also request assistance in obtaining information in connection with cases that are raised in another contracting state. Furthermore, parents may request recognition and enforcement of decisions taken in another state that has ratified the Convention. Parents may also ask the competent authorities to consider transferring jurisdiction in a parental dispute or child welfare case or to consider placing the child in a foster home or in institutional care in another contracting state.
The central authority – a key role
The central authorities play a key role in cooperation under the Convention on individual cases. According to the Convention, the central authority is to cooperate with other central authorities and promote cooperation between the competent authorities in its country. It is also responsible for providing information on national laws and services relating to the protection of children.
The central authority in Norway (Bufdir) will play an important role in individual cases, as the body responsible for receiving requests from foreign authorities, for example, requests for information about children in Norway or requests for children to be placed in a foster family or institutional care in Norway. These requests will then be forwarded to the relevant authority in Norway. Bufdir will also assist the Norwegian authorities in requesting information about a child from the authorities in another country.
Bufdir will be able to assist the municipal child welfare services in their dialogue with foreign authorities. The Convention provides a framework and a number of tools that make it possible to resolve more cases in accordance with the best interests of the child. Bufdir does not have decision-making authority in individual cases and should not attempt to influence the decisions of the competent authorities. Bufdir should, however, actively encourage the child welfare services and other competent authorities to cooperate with the competent authorities in other countries.
Norwegian implementation act. Amendments to the Children Act and the Child Welfare Act
The Norwegian implementation act (Act of 4 September 2015 No. 85, Lov om Haagkonvensjonen 1996, in Norwegian only) implements the Convention in Norwegian law. The Act enters into force on 1 July 2016, and from this date the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir) will be Norway’s central authority for the Convention. The Ministry has issued regulations relating to the Act containing provisions on the role of the central authority.
Norway’s ratification of the Convention has made it necessary to make certain amendments to Norwegian legislation. Additional amendments have been made to ensure that Norwegian legislation is fully in line with the Convention and its aims.
New provisions have been incorporated into the Children Act Sections 84 a on applicable law and 84 b on recognition, both concerning parental responsibility). Section 84 a of the Children Act implements Article 16 (3) of the 1996 Hague Convention, which is a key provision in that it also applies to parental responsibility granted by law or agreed in the child’s previous state of habitual residence, including when this state is not party to the Convention. The amendments to the Children Act include a clarification of the rules in cases where a parent with parental responsibility has agreed to allow the child to visit and spend time in another country, namely, that the parent’s consent is required if the stay is to be extended or changed. This includes cases where the child is left behind in another country. In addition, it is stipulated that children aged 12 or above who move or travel to another state must give their consent to this when the trip is to be taken without the parent who has parental responsibility. The amendments to the Children Act also mean that a parent will be entitled to seek a court order to relocate to another state with the child.
The amendments to the Child Welfare Act make it possible to make decisions on care orders for children who are habitually resident in Norway, even if the child is abroad. This can prevent families from attempting to leave the country to avoid complying with a decision taken by the child welfare services. Children may be placed in a foster home or institution in another contracting state, as a voluntary measure. A number of conditions must be met in order for this to happen. For example, the parents and any children over the age of 12 must give their consent. Children may also be placed in a foster home or institution in Norway on the basis of a decision taken in another contracting state.
The Hague Conference on Private International Law
The Hague Conference currently has 81 members. Norway has been a member since 1955. Norway will be the 44th country to ratify the 1996 Hague Convention. Although the Hague Convention was adopted in 1996, its first entry into force was not until 2002. The Convention stipulates that it enters into force three months after its ratification by a certain number of states. It was not until 2010 that the number of ratifications began to increase, and the EU states have only ratified the Convention fairly recently.
Norway has ratified 14 of the Hague Conference conventions. Of the conventions that Norway has ratified, the 1993 Hague Adoption Convention and the 1980 Child Abduction Convention have the highest number of ratifications, 98 and 94 respectively. The Ministry of Children and Equality has responsibility for the 1996 Hague Convention and the 1993 Hague Adoption Convention. The Ministry of Justice and Public Security has responsibility for the 1980 Child Abduction Convention. On the Hague Conference website, there is an overview for each convention of the convention status (number of ratifications), the various states’ central authorities, and publications such as practical handbooks, implementation checklists, explanatory reports, documents from special commission meetings, questionnaires from the Permanent Bureau and responses from member states in connection with special commission meetings etc.
Contact information for Norway’s central authority under the 1996 Hague Convention
Currently, the following people may be contacted:
- Anne Sofie Døskeland, Senior Adviser: + 47 466 15 113.
- Agnete Krogvig, Senior Adviser: + 47 46616492.
Enquiries can be sent by post to:
- Bufetat, Postboks 2233, 3103 Tønsberg, or by email.
- The Norwegian implementation act (Lov om Haagkonvensjonen 1996 (Norwegian only))
- Regulations (Norwegian only)
- Comments on the regulations (Norwegian only)
- Hague Conference, homepage
- Hague Conference website, 1996 Hague Convention
- Prop. 102 LS (2014-2015) (Norwegian only)
- See also the website of the Storting. (Innst. 340 S (2014-2015), Innst. 329 L (2014-2015) and the decisions of 11 June and 15 June 2015, all in Norwegian only)