EGYPT AND CHILD ABDUCTION
Parental Kidnapping: The removal of a child by the non-custodial parent to or within Egypt is not a crime in Egypt unless the child is subject to Egyptian court-ordered travel restrictions. Additionally, parents should be aware that they must work within the Egyptian court system in order to obtain legal custody of the child in Egypt.
Once the custody order is obtained, the parent must go to the district family court for its implementation. The president of the court has the authority to request that the police enforce the custody order and/or impose a penalty on the noncustodial parent for noncompliance with the custody order.
Dual Nationality: Egypt recognizes the concept of dual nationality. Under Egyptian law, children born to an Egyptian father are automatically considered citizens of Egypt. Egyptian mothers of children born to a non-Egyptian father, however, should submit requests to the Egyptian Passports, Immigration and Nationality Authority, Egyptian Embassies or Consulates overseas, and/or the Civil Registration Office to register their children as Egyptian citizens.
Enforcement of Foreign Court Orders: A parent can request that a foreign custody order be recognized in Egypt, but enforcement will result only if the order does not contravene Shari’a law and “paternal rights.” Therefore, as a practical matter, foreign custody orders are not generally automatically recognized in Egypt, and the parent must seek legal representation in Egypt.
Jurisdiction and Right of Custody: Egyptian Family Courts within the jurisdiction of each summary court have legal jurisdiction to hear child custody petitions.
Presumptive Custody: Under Egyptian law, the courts generally favor the mother. Mothers are most commonly considered to be the appropriate custodians of children up to age 15. Normally, if custody disputes arise between parents, Egyptian courts uphold presumptive custody. Courts in Egypt generally uphold presumptive custody for the mother if she is a “person of the book” (i.e., Muslim, Christian or Jewish) and if she is deemed to be a “fit” mother. If the father is Muslim, the court generally requires that the mother commit herself to raise the child as a Muslim in Egypt. If a non-Egyptian mother’s custody is upheld in court, she generally must still request the permission of the court to take the children out of Egypt. Also, under Egyptian law, if the mother (Muslim or non-Muslim) remarries she may lose her claim to custody of her children, depending on the court’s determination based on the best interests of the child. This law, however, does not apply to the father; he would normally retain custody rights if he remarries.
Order of Preference for Non-Parental Custody: The mother may lose presumptive custody due to remarriage or inability to counter court findings that she is an “unfit mother.” In such cases, the courts recognize an order of preference of alternate adult custodians with priority given to the mother’s family in the following order: maternal grandmother or great-grandmother; paternal grandmother or great-grandmother; maternal aunt; paternal aunt; maternal niece; paternal niece. If these relatives do not exist, the right of custody shifts to a male in the following order of priority: maternal grandfather; maternal brother; maternal nephew; paternal brother.
Right of Visitation: By law, visitation depends on the willingness of the custodial parent. If a father has custody and does not voluntarily agree to visitation, the local authorities will generally not force the issue without a court order. The parent will have to seek a court order to enforce visitation.
Egyptian Good Intentions Subcommittee: In February 2000, the Egyptian Government established an interagency committee consisting of representatives from several ministries to review international child abduction cases in Egypt. This committee established the Good Intentions Subcommittee, which can act as a mediator between the taking and the left-behind parent. U.S. Embassy personnel meet regularly with the Subcommittee which seeks the abducting parents’ cooperation in providing access to abducted children and keeping all parties informed of developments regarding abduction and custody issues. As a result of these mediations, access and/or visitation for some children has been achieved.
Egyptian/American MOU on Parental Access: In October 2003, the U.S. and Egypt signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that confirms both countries’ commitment to facilitating parental access to children in the other country. Both the U.S. and Egypt agree that a left-behind parent should have meaningful access to his or her child or children. However, the MOU recognizes that facilitating parental access may occur in tandem with efforts to return children to their custodial parents.
Currently, however, there are no international or bilateral treaties in force between Egypt and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction. Egypt is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Thus, this treaty cannot be invoked if a child is taken from the U.S. to Egypt by one parent against the wishes of the other parent or in violation of a U.S. custody order.
Travel: Currently, the father’s permission is not required for children to depart Egypt unless there is a custody order that explicitly grants custody to the father. Egyptian fathers no longer have absolute control over their children’s right to travel abroad. They can still prevent their children from traveling, but must do so by means of a court order.
Travel Restrictions (Wife): Due to a Supreme Court decision in March 2000, an Egyptian wife no longer requires the permission of her Egyptian husband to obtain a passport and depart the country. In the case of a child custody dispute, however, either spouse may obtain a court order preventing the other spouse from traveling until the dispute has been resolved.