Tilleke & Gibbins Secures Thailand’s First Return Order under the Hague Child Abduction Convention

July 17, 2020

We are proud to announce that Tilleke & Gibbins’ international family disputes team has successfully obtained the first return order issued by a Thai court pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international multilateral treaty that provides mechanisms for parents whose children are abducted from their habitual residence and held elsewhere without the parent’s consent.

The claimant in this case was an Italian father of two daughters who were abducted from Italy and kept in Thailand by their Thai mother without the father’s consent. In July 2019, the children’s mother took the children to Thailand to visit their maternal grandparents, promising to return them to Italy in August 2019. However, when the date arrived, the mother insisted on keeping the children in Thailand without the father’s consent. The father first sought assistance from the Italian Central Authorities—a domestic coordinating organization established under the Hague Convention to cooperate with central authorities in foreign jurisdictions—but after running into challenges with the complex and time-consuming nature of the required procedures, he instructed Tilleke & Gibbins to secure the return of his daughters. A team of international family disputes lawyers from the firm, led by Sasirusm (Roll) B. Chunhakasikarn, who heads our family disputes practice, and Pawilai Ploythammachat, an attorney-at-law in the same team, immediately prepared and filed a claim with the Central Juvenile and Family Court seeking a prompt return order. This was granted, and the children are now awaiting transportation arrangements for their return to Italy. 

Thailand acceded to the Hague Convention in 2002, and implemented its accession through the International Civil Cooperation Regarding Breach of the Rights of Control and Custody of Children Act B.E. 2555 (2012), which took effect in 2013. Although a number of claims have been filed with the Central Juvenile and Family Court since then, a number of practical enforcement obstacles have prevented the court from issuing a return order, instead dismissing claims or assisted the parties to reach a negotiated settlement (mainly regarding visitation). Accordingly, this successful outcome was the first time that Thailand’s Central Juvenile and Family Court has ordered the return of children to their habitual residence as requested.

This case represents a significant step forward in the enforcement of the Hague Convention in Thailand, and confirms that a parent whose child has been wrongfully taken from their home and retained in Thailand can successfully seek a return order from a Thai court.

For more information on the Hague Convention or on Tilleke & Gibbins’ family disputes practice, please contact Sasirusm (Roll) B. Chunhakasikarn at [email protected] or +66 2056 5787.