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INTERVIEW: Planned international child support convention "promising"

By dpa news     Nov 2, 2007 in Crime
An international child support convention that will enter its final stages of negotiation on Monday is intended to ease the plight of single parents and their children worldwide.
In an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa on Friday, Hague Conference Deputy Secretary General, William Duncan, came across as a happy man.
The International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance Convention, a widely-supported initiative that is due to be finalized later this month.
In addition, the ambassador of Equador officially became a member of Duncan's international organization on Friday, bringing the total number of Hague Conference members to 68.
Duncan is optimistic about the latest Hague Conference convention which aims to help parents recover child support internationally.
"Each convention is unique, but I think this child support convention will be particularly successful," he told dpa.
At present, if a divorced parent moves abroad for work or personal reasons, it often means that he or she, consciously or subconsciously, will at some point stop to pay child support.
"Once abroad the parent who stayed behind can hardly recover the money," Duncan said. "It's either too complicated or too expensive to make it worthwhile, or both."
Not only private citizens, but states that ratify the agreement too, will be able to turn to the convention that is due to be finalized on November 23.
After all, once the child support debtor is found and has resumed child support payments, states no longer need to provide welfare stipends to the single parents claiming these to make up for the lack of child support.
"This convention is a win-win agreement for everyone," Duncan told dpa, saying dependents "will gain from it" and "states will win from it as well."
The convention basically provides a simplified procedure to recover child support, Duncan explained.
"A Dutch mother in the Netherlands will be able to apply in the Netherlands to recover the child support from her former spouse living abroad.
Or she could get a court order for child support in his new home country. The basis of the idea is that the procedure should be swift and very accessible, even if one has to recover very modest amounts of money."
"A special department at the local Justice Ministry, called the Central Authorities, will be appointed to deal with the child support application."
Another well-known and successful Hague Convention - on Child Abduction - also uses this avenue to deal with problems of international child abduction or access to children.
The groundwork for the child support recovery convention began in the 1990s, while negotiations began in 2003, with the final stage taking place in the coming weeks.
About 125 parties - states and organizations - will participate in talks to finalize the convention. Among the obstacles still to be overcome include the issue of the services provided to the maintenance creditors and the cost.
Participants will also consider the procedures to get existing child support court orders recognized and enforced.
The new convention will also empower parents whose former spouses have moved to unknown destinations abroad.
Success is not, however, guaranteed and will depend on whether the absent parent has moved to a country that is a member to the convention.
Duncan noted that central authorities are already trained in tracking down parents abroad, but locating parents who hide from their spouses or authorities, can be long and difficult.
"I suspect it will be a lot easier to track down child support debtors. Usually they do not hide from anyone, they just moved abroad and 'forgot' about their child support obligations," he said.
Two states will need to ratify the convention before it comes into force. It is likely that the United States - a country with a strong child support enforcement system - may ratify the convention at the November 23 signing ceremony, according to Duncan.
"The US have played a major role in the development of this convention. This is particularly interesting because once this convention comes into force, there will be a net flow of child support from the US, not into the US."
The European Union has been a second motor behind the convention, Duncan explains. "I think the European Union may ratify this agreement as a whole, making it no longer necessary for member states to debate about those matters that are within their national competence.
"I can't tell you when the EU might ratify the convention, but I have a good hope it will," said Duncan.
 
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