The Office of Children’s Issues of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs has recently released the annual report on Hague Convention compliance. The reports detail various issues of non-compliance with member countries. It places countries under two categories; “Not Compliant” and “Demonstrating Patterns of Noncompliance,” with the former category signaling more serious compliance problems. This year, The Bahamas has been classified as “Demonstrating Patterns of Noncompliance." The text of the 2012 report follows, as well as one case summaries from the report.
Patterns of Noncompliance with the Convention:
The Bahamas demonstrated patterns of non-compliance in judicial performance. During the reporting period, the USCA noted excessive delays in Convention cases. To address the USCA concerns regarding delays in Convention cases, the Bahamian Central Authority (BCA) worked with a non-governmental organization to establish a formal system of mediation to help parents resolve cases without waiting for cases to be processed through the court system. Bahamian courts tend to treat Convention cases as custody matters. Evaluations of taking parents’ homes are mandatory in all Convention cases, and courts often request left-behind parents to obtain a home study before decisions are rendered in Convention cases. These requests cause significant delays and financial hardship to left-behind parents.
Central authority performance improved substantially over the course of 2011, particularly during the last quarter of the reporting period. In November, the BCA launched a public relations campaign on the Convention on an official website and in the media, and established a 24-hour hotline to assist and educate the general public about international parental child abduction. Communication between the USCA and BCA improved significantly. The BCA’s recent responsiveness demonstrated the commitment of the newly appointed Acting Head of the Legal Division for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to improve The Bahamas’ understanding and implementation of the Convention.
1. The BCA acknowledged receipt of the Convention application on August 4, 2009. In June 2010, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) requested that a home study be conducted by the Department of Social Services and the AGO received the report on December 2010. The AGO’s request for apostilled documents caused significant delays in the case. The USCA forwarded apostilled documents received from LBP to the BCA in January 2011. In September 2011, the AGO informed the LBP in September 2011 that a Convention hearing was tentatively scheduled for October 2011; however, the hearing was subsequently delayed until further notice for no stated reason. The USCA and U.S. Embassy Nassau have regularly requested updates from the BCA on court proceedings.
2. In September 2009, the AGO’s contacted the Indiana Department of Child Services, which conducted a home study with the LBP. A non-Convention-related exploratory hearing took place in November 2009 and a Convention hearing was held in January 2011. A ruling scheduled for February 4, 2011 was postponed. The judge reviewed the case in April 2011, but delayed the decision until further notice. The USCA and U.S.Embassy Nassau have regularly requested updates from the BCA on court proceedings.
3. The USCA forwarded the Convention application to the BCA in May 2010. The BCA did not acknowledge receipt of the application until October 2010. After the case was filed in court, a hearing scheduled for July 2011 was postponed after the judge recused himself because he is acquainted with the TP. The AGO is still waiting for a new hearing date before a new judge. Based on domestic procedures for initiating Convention cases, the application will remain pending with the AGO until a new judge is assigned. The AGO received home study report on July 22, 2011. The USCA and U.S. Embassy Nassau have regularly requested updates from the BCA on court proceedings