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The Role of Expert Witnesses in Proving Grave Risk to Children  

Author:  Jeffrey L. Edleson, Ph.D..

Source: Volume 12, Number 02, Fall 2019 , pp.41-48(8)

Family & Intimate Partner Violence Quarterly

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The opening lines of the Hague Convention and its exceptions clearly suggest one goal of the treaty is furthering children’s well-being. Many expert witnesses come to Hague Convention cases with a history of assessing the “best interests” of a child in domestic custody disputes and testify accordingly. However, as Perez-Vera and others have argued, the courts in a child’s country of habitual residence must be the forum in which custody and other aspects of access are decided. What expert witnesses often do not recognize is that their testimony in a Hague Convention case is not to aid a custody decision but rather an effort to establish for the judge whether the child would, consistent with article 13(b), face a grave risk of exposure to physical or psychological harm if he or she were to be returned to the country of habitual residence. The expert can be useful for establishing that the abuse to the child and/or the mother occurred and, in the case of domestic violence, showing that returning the child would pose a grave risk of continued physical or psychological harm to the child.

Keywords: “Grave Risk;” Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction; Article 13(b); Expert Witness

Affiliations:  1: University of California, Berkeley.

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