Sri Lanka 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 Sri Lanka, 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 Sri Lanka.
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 Sri Lanka. Parents are strongly encouraged to contact the Department of State for assistance prior to initiating the Hague process directly with the foreign Central Authority.
United States Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
SA-17, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Outside the United States or Canada: 1-202-501-4444
The The Sri Lankan Central Authority for the Hague Abduction Convention is the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). The MOJ determines whether a particular case falls within the jurisdiction of the Hague Abduction Convention. If the MOJ determines a case is within such jurisdiction, the MOJ applies to the High Court of the Western Province (the sole court responsible for such legal actions in Sri Lanka) to issue an order for the return of the abducted child to his or her place of habitual residence. Following submission of the application to the High Court of the Western Province, the Attorney General's Department represents the MOJ in court
The Sri Lankan Central Authority can be reached at:
Ministry of Justice
Superior Courts Complex
Telephone number: +94 (11) 232-3022
Fax number: +94 (11) 232-0785
To initiate a Hague case for return of, or access to, a child in Sri Lanka, the left-behind parent or the Central Authority of the left-behind parent's country must submit a Hague application to the MOJ. The USCA is available to answer questions about the Hague application process, to forward a completed application to the Ministry of Justice, 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 Sri Lanka central authorities. Attorney fees in Sri Lanka can vary depending upon an attorney's experience and reputation and are the responsibility of the applicant parent. 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, Sri Lanka. 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 Sri Lanka. 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.
Sri Lanka does not permit parents to directly submit Hague Convention applications to the High Court of the Western Provence, as this role is only performed by the MOJ. However, parents can retain private attorneys to observe the legal proceedings and report directly to the parents the status of the case. Private attorney fees are the responsibility of the applicant parent.
Sri Lanka offers free (or reduced fee) legal services to certain qualified parties, solely at the discretion of the Legal Aid Commission. Legal aid and free legal services will only be available in cases where the requesting party's income is less than LKR 6000.00 (approximately $60 USD) per month's - this income must be certified by a local administrative officer and the Legal Commission determines that the case merits the free service.
The U.S. Embassy in Colombo posts 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 following persons or firms. Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the lawyers.
The MOJ states that neither the Sri Lankan government nor any non-government organizations in Sri Lanka offer mediation services to resolve custody disputes. Any mediation efforts between the relevant parties must be arranged privately.
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.