Travel.State.Gov > International Parental Child Abduction > Country Information > Costa Rica International Parental Child Abduction Information
Costa Rica and the United States have been treaty partners under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention) since January 1, 2008.
For information concerning travel to Costa Rica, including information about the location of the U.S. Embassy, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, entry/exit requirements, safety and security, crime, medical facilities and health information, traffic safety, road conditions and aviation safety, please see country-specific information for Costa Rica.
The U.S. Department of State reports statistics and compliance information for individual countries in the Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA). The report is located here.
The U.S. Department of State serves as the U.S. Central Authority (USCA) for the Hague Abduction Convention. In this capacity, the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, Directorate for Overseas Citizens Services, Office of Children's Issues facilitates the submission of applications under the Hague Abduction Convention for the return of, or access to, children located in countries that are U.S. treaty partners, including Costa Rica. Parents are strongly encouraged to contact the Department of State for assistance prior to initiating the Hague process directly with the foreign Central Authority.
U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children's Issues
SA-17, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Outside the United States or Canada: 1-202-501-4444
The Costa Rican Central Authority for the Hague Abduction Convention is the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (PANI). PANI's role is to perform the duties given to central authorities under the Hague Abduction Convention, including processing Hague Abduction Convention applications for return of and access to children. They can be reached at:
Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (PANI)
Apartado Postal 5000-1000
Telephone: +506-2523-0736 or -0714
Fax: +506 2258 1494
To initiate a Hague case for return of, or access to, a child in Costa Rica, the left-behind parent must submit a Hague application to PANI. The USCA is available to answer questions about the Hague application process, to forward a completed application to the PANI, and to subsequently monitor its progress through the foreign administrative and legal processes.
There are no fees for filing Hague applications with either the United States or Costa Rican central authorities. Attorney fees, if necessary, are the sole responsibility of the person hiring the attorney. Additional costs may include airplane tickets for court appearances and for the return of the child, if so ordered.
A parent or legal guardian may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for return to the United States of a child abducted to, or wrongfully retained in, Costa Rica. The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand whether the Convention is an available civil remedy and can provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.
A person may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for access to a child living in Costa Rica. The criteria for acceptance of a Hague access application vary from country to country. The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand country-specific criteria and provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.
Retaining a private attorney is not required in order to file Hague Convention applications with courts in Costa Rica. However, parents should consider hiring a private attorney to follow up on cases, directly provide information to courts, and generally advise courses of action appropriate for their individual circumstances. A privately-hired attorney should contact PANI as soon as possible after the Hague Abduction Convention application has been filed. If a parent chooses not to hire a private attorney, the court will appoint a legal representative for the left-behind parent. PANI represents the child in a Hague case. In this role, PANI presents the case in the appropriate court in the context of the Hague Convention, and, through the USCA, facilitates communication between the left-behind parent and the court regarding the case.
The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica posts a list of attorneys, including those who specialize in family law.
This list is provided as a courtesy service only and does not constitute an endorsement of any individual attorney.The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the persons or firms included in this list. Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the lawyers.
PANI, Costa Rica's Central Authority, often attempts to mediate between parties in abduction cases prior to the commencement of Hague proceedings.
While travelling in a foreign country, you are subject to the laws of that country. It is important for parents to understand that, although a left-behind parent in the United States may have custody or visitation rights pursuant to a U.S. custody order, that order may not be valid and enforceable in the country in which the child is located. For this reason, we strongly encourage you to speak to a local attorney if planning to remove a child from a foreign country without the consent of the other parent. Attempts to remove your child to the United States may:
The U.S. government cannot interfere with another country’s court or law enforcement system.
To understand the legal effect of a U.S. order in a foreign country, a parent should consult with a local attorney in the country in which the child is located.
For information about hiring an attorney abroad, see our section on Retaining a Foreign Attorney.
Although we cannot recommend an attorney to you, most U.S. Embassies have lists of attorneys available online. Please visit the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for a full listing.
For more information on consular assistance for U.S. citizens arrested abroad, please see our website.
Country officers are available to speak with you Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. For assistance with an abduction in progress or any emergency situation that occurs after normal business hours, on weekends, or federal holidays, please call toll free at 1-888-407-4747. See all contact information.
DISCLAIMER: The information in this flyer is provided for general information only, is not intended to be legal advice, and may change without notice. Questions involving interpretation of law should be addressed to an attorney licensed in the relevant jurisdiction.