Russia is a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 (hereinafter – the Child Abduction Convention), which came into force between Russia and about 70 States. Therefore, chapter 22.2 of the Code of civil procedure provides that a return application must be submitted to a court by a parent or other person considering that his or her custody or access rights have been violated, or by a prosecutor. Following the concentration principle the Russian legislator entrusted eight courts of first instance with the competence to hear abduction/access cases in Russia, and they are:
The return request is examined by the court, with the mandatory participation of a prosecutor and the childcare authority, within forty-two days of its receipt, including the time for the preparation of the hearing and the drawing-up of the judgment (Article 244.15). The judgment may be appealed against within ten days. The appeal is examined within one month by the appellate court (Article 244.17).
It is up to the chairman of a particular court to entrust any of the judges of a court with the task of hearing abduction cases. It is also up to the chairman to decide whether the judge will be allocated with other cases or not.
According to the “Overview of child return cases under the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention” drafted by the Russian Supreme Cout in December 2019, in the period from 2016 to 2018, 71 return cases were heard overall: 13 cases in 2016, 26 cases in 2017, and 32 cases in 2018. In 23 cases, the applicants’ claim for return of the child was satisfied; and in 48 cases, the applicants’ claim for return of the child was refused. Not surprisingly, some of the applicants applied to the ECtHR, the list of the cases can be found here.
It is to be noted that no legal aid is granted for the abduction/access cases, and the Russian Central Authority – Ministry of Education is not empowered either to bring abduction/ access cases before a Russian court or to represent legal interests of any of the parties to the proceeding.