Patterns of Noncompliance: Bulgaria 2010

Below is the U.S. State Department's report on Bulgaria's pattern of noncompliance with the Hague Convention on International Child Abductions. 

Bulgaria demonstrated patterns of noncompliance with the Convention during FY 2009 with respect to its judicial performance. While the Bulgarian judges' final decisions on return applications during FY 2009 appeared to be consistent with the Convention, reaching the decisions took excessively long. Some provisions of Bulgarian law may present challenges to judges' ability to promptly return children under the Convention. For example, the Department has been informed of an apparent inability on the part of the Bulgarian Central Authority to forward a completed Convention application to the court until social services conducts an investigation and submits a welfare report on the child, the TP, and the home environment in Bulgaria. Not only does this apparent obstacle delay processing of the legal case by several months, but it also allows the court to consider matters that are more relevant to custody proceedings rather than a Convention case. When judges issue a return orders, moreover, Bulgarian law may not provide adequate measures for enforcement in situations where the TP does not cooperate.

The USCA forwarded six new return applications to the Bulgarian Central Authority (BCA) during FY 2009 that involved children who were either wrongfully removed from the United States to Bulgaria, or wrongfully retained in Bulgaria. In all six cases, there was an average delay of four months as a result of the BCA needing to obtain social reports before forwarding the application and related materials to the court. Once the court received these materials, judges scheduled hearings quickly; however, most cases experienced subsequent delays involving the rescheduling of hearings or postponements for unclear reasons. In one case, the TP was able to delay proceedings by electing not to appear because of the child's illness and by asserting additional evidence may be available, and that the TP needed more time to locate such evidence. As the Convention stipulates, unnecessary delays in processing Convention cases should be avoided in order to prevent further trauma to children and to mitigate possible efforts on the part of the TP to alienate children from the LBP.

The United States has been partners with Bulgaria under the Hague Abduction Convention for five years and benefits from a highly cooperative relationship with the BCA. The BCA is responsive and helpful to requests for assistance and information.

LBPs whose children have been abducted to Bulgaria have the option to allow the BCA to represent their petitions in court, a potentially slower but less expensive option. The BCA has demonstrated both sensitivity in representing LBPs and awareness of risk factors associated with TPs who may flee with their children once they become alerted to the filing of a Convention petition. In sensitive cases, such as one that involved children who were retained by their grandparents after an agreed-upon school year in Bulgaria, the BCA cautiously and sensitively coordinated with the LBP to explore the potential response to a voluntary return request.

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