Trust and the law in international child abduction cases




Trust, Transnationalisation, Sociology of Law, International Child Abduction, Confianza, transnacionalización, sociología jurídica, sustracción internacional de menores


This article seeks to grasp the legal category of international child abduction through the conceptual lens of trust, from the standpoint of judges. In a more ambitious way, we delve into the relationship between law and trust in the context of the transnationalisation of family law. Going beyond the legal principle of mutual trust, we propose a solid conceptualisation of the notion of trust drawn from sociological theory and we analyse the issues that arises for judges both at the institutional and interactional levels. At the institutional level, we show how trust operates as a procedural mechanism that allows cooperation in the absence of explicit moral consensus, whilst at the interactional level, we demonstrate that trust is imbued with ethical value and pushes judges to be more open to foreign laws and culture.

Este artículo trata de comprender la categoría jurídica de la sustracción internacional de menores a través de la lente conceptual de la confianza, desde el punto de vista de los jueces. De forma más ambiciosa, profundizamos en la relación entre derecho y confianza en el contexto de la transnacionalización del derecho de familia. Más allá del principio jurídico de confianza mutua, proponemos un concepto de confianza extraído de la teoría sociológica y analizamos las cuestiones que se plantean a los jueces tanto a nivel institucional como interaccional. En el plano institucional, mostramos cómo la confianza funciona como un mecanismo procesal que permite la cooperación en ausencia de un consenso moral explícito, mientras que, en el plano interaccional, demostramos que la confianza está imbuida de valor ético y empuja a los jueces a estar más abiertos a las leyes y la cultura extranjeras.


Download data is not yet available.


Views 130
14(1)_Struelens_OSLS 41
XML_14(1)_Struelens_OSLS 1

Author Biography

Olivier Struelens, Catholic University of Louvain

Olivier Struelens holds a PhD in sociology from the UCLouvain, Belgium. At the interface of disciplinary boundaries, his research has led him to develop an approach that takes the law seriously, immersing himself in legal complexities in order to draw out sociological reflections. Initially involved in the question of the political uses of law in social movements, he then took up the question of migration and the family. His doctoral thesis, defended in 2021, examines international parental abductions in the light of the notion of trust, opening up new reflections on the relationship between trust and law.

Post-doctoral researcher at Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium.


Centre de Philosophie du Droit (CPDR)

Collège Thomas More Place Montesquieu 2, L2.07.01

1348 Louvain-La-Neuve



Allard, J., and Garapon, A., 2005. Les juges dans la mondialisation: La nouvelle révolution du droit. Paris: Seuil.

Anagnostaras, G., 2016. Mutual confidence is not blind trust! Fundamental rights protection and the execution of the European arrest warrant: Aranyosi and Caldararu. Common Market Law Review, 53(6), 1675–1704.

Bartolini, S., 2019. In the Name of the Best Interest of the Child: The Principle of Mutual Trust in Child Abduction Cases. Common Market Law Review, 56 (1), 1–30.

Battjes, H., et al., 2011. The Principle of Mutual Trust in European Asylum, Migration, and Criminal law. Utrecht: Meijers Committee.

Berman, P.S., 2005. From International Law to Law and Globalization. Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, 43(2), 485–556.

Brouwer, E., 2013. Mutual Trust and the Dublin Regulation: Protection of Fundamental Rights in the EU and the Burden of Proof. Utrecht Law Review, 9(1), 135–147.

C.J.E.U, Zarraga, 22 December 2010, aff. C-491/10 PPU, point 70.

Cornu, L., 2006. La confiance comme relation émancipatrice. In: A. Ogien and L. Quéré, eds., Les moments de la confiance: Connaissance, affects et engagements. Paris: Economica, 169–190.

Cotterrell, R., 2008. Transnational Communities and the Concept of Law. Ratio Juris, 21 (1), 1–18.

Frederiksen, M., 2016. Divided uncertainty: a phenomenology of trust, risk and confidence. In: S. Jagd and L. Fuglsang, eds., Trust, Organizations and Social Interaction. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 43–67.

Frederiksen, M., and Heinskou, M.B., 2016. Trusting the other or taking a chance? An investigation of chance and trust temporalities. Time & Society, 25(2), 374–392.

Gambetta, D., ed., 1988. Trust: Making and breaking cooperative relations. Cambridge, MA: Basic Blackwell.

Hague Conference on Private International Law (HccH), 2022. Status table. 28: Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction [online]. Last update: 14 September 2022. Available at:

Hague Conference on Private International Law (HccH), 2023. Status table. Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Status on: 27 February 2023 [online]. Available at:

Hanley, P., 2016. Black Hole in the Rising Sun: Japan and the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. International Human Rights Law Journal, 2(1), 1–22.

Hardin, R., 2002. Trust and trustworthiness. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Karpik, L., 2006. Pour une conception substantive de la confiance. In: A. Ogien and L. Quéré, eds., Les moments de la confiance: Connaissance, affect et engagements. Paris: Economica, 109–117.

Kramer, X., 2011. Cross Border Enforcement in the EU: Mutual Trust Versus Fair Trial? Towards Principles of European Civil Procedure. International Journal of Procedure Law, 1(2), 202–230.

Lowe, N., 2011. A statistical analysis of applications made in 2008 under The Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, National Report (Prel. Doc. No 8 C). May. Hague Conference on Private International Law.

Luhmann, N., 2006. La confiance: Un mécanisme de réduction de la complexité sociale. Paris: Economica.

Luhmann, N., 2017. Trust and Power. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Mangematin, V., and Thuderoz, C., eds., 2004. Des mondes de confiance: Un concept à l’épreuve de la réalité sociale. Paris: CNRS .

Maoli, F., et al., 2020. Understanding the Best Interests of the Child in EU Child Abduction Proceedings: Perspectives from the Case Law. Diritti umani e diritto internazionale, 14(2), 337–363.

McEleavy, P., 2015. The European Court of Human Rights and the Hague Child Abduction Convention: Prioritising Return or Reflection? Netherlands International Law Review, 62(3), 365–405.

Mitsilegas, V., 2012. The limits of mutual trust in Europe’s Area of Freedom, Security and Justice: from automatic inter-state cooperation to the slow emergence of the individual. Yearbook of European Law, 31(1), 319–372.

Mitsilegas, V., 2015. The Symbiotic Relationship between Mutual Trust and Fundamental Rights in Europe’s Area of Criminal Justice. New Journal of European Criminal Law, 6(4), 457–480.

Möllering, G., 2001. The Nature of Trust: From Georg Simmel to a Theory of Expectation, Interpretation and Suspension. Sociology, 35(2), 403–420.

Nooteboom, B., 2006. Apprendre à faire confiance. In: A. Ogien and L. Quéré, eds., Les moments de la confiance: Connaissance, affects et engagements. Paris: Economica, 63–85.

Ogien, A., 2006. Éléments pour une grammaire de la confiance. In: A. Ogien and L. Quéré, eds., Les moments de la confiance: Connaissance, affects et engagements. Paris: Economica, 217–232.

Pérez-Vera, E., 1980. Rapport explicatif sur la Convention de La Haye de 1980 sur l’enlèvement international d’enfants. Hague Conference on Private International Law, No. Actes et documents de la Quatorzième session, t. III, Enlèvement d'enfants. Hague Conference on Private International Law.

Pfeiff, S., 2016. L’enlèvement international d’enfants dans l’Union européenne : la fin du retour immédiat ? In: L. Barnich et al., eds., Le Droit des relations familiales internationales à la croisée des chemins. Brussels: Larcier, 149–177.

Quéré, L., 2001. La structure cognitive et normative de la confiance. Réseaux, 108(4), 125–152.

Quéré, L., 2005. Les « dispositifs de confiance » dans l’espace public. Réseaux, 132(4), 185–217.

Quéré, L., 2013. La confiance comme attitude pratique. Occasional Paper, 15. Paris: Institut Marcel Mauss, 1–25.

Rawls, A.W., 2012. Durkheim’s theory of modernity: Self-regulating practices as constitutive orders of social and moral facts. Journal of Classical Sociology, 12(3–4), 479–512.

Rizcallah, C., 2019a. Le principe de confiance mutuelle : une utopie malheureuse ? Revue trimestrielle des droits de l’homme, 118(2), 297–322.

Rizcallah, C., 2019b. The challenges to trust‐based governance in the European Union: Assessing the use of mutual trust as a driver of EU integration. European Law Journal, 25(1), 37–56.

Schuz, R., 2013. The Hague child abduction convention: A critical analysis. Oxford: Hart.

Schwarz, M., 2018. Let’s talk about trust, baby! Theorizing trust and mutual recognition in the EU’s area of freedom, security and justice. European Law Journal, 24(2–3), 124–141.

Simmel, G., 2009. Secrets et sociétés secrètes. Paris : Circe.

Struelens, O., 2020a. « Kafka n’est pas loin, sauf quand les juges se tiennent la main » : confiance institutionnelle et transnationalisation du droit familial. Revue interdisciplinaire d’études juridiques, 84(1), 5–38.

Struelens, O., 2020b. Le droit face à l’enlèvement parental international. La poursuite de l’intérêt de l’enfant au prisme du pluralisme juridique. In: A. Fillod-Chabaud and L. Odasso, eds., Faire et défaire les liens familiaux: Usages et pratiques du droit en contexte migratoire. Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 65–79.

Struelens, O., 2021. Le pari de la confiance : les juges et les médiateurs face à l’enlèvement parental international. Thesis (PhD). University of Louvain.

Sulima, A., 2013. The Normativity of The Principle of Mutual Trust Between EU Member States within the Emerging European Criminal Area. Wroclaw Review of Law, Administration & Economics, 3(1), 72–89.

Vicini, G., 2015. The Dublin Regulation Between Strasbourg and Luxembourg: Re-Shaping Non-Refoulement in the Name of Mutual Trust? European Journal of Legal Studies, 8(2), 51–72.

Watson, R., 2009. Constitutive Practices and Garfinkel’s Notion of Trust: Revisited. Journal of Classical Sociology, 9(4), 475–499.

Whytock, C., 2014. Faith and scepticism in private international law: Trust, governance, politics, and foreign judgments. Erasmus Law Review, 3, 113–124.

Willems, A., 2016. Mutual Trust as a Term of Art in EU Criminal Law: Revealing its Hybrid Character. European Journal of Legal Studies, 9(1), 211–249.

Wischmeyer, T., 2016. European Union and the “Principle of Mutual Trust”. German Law Journal, 17(3), 340–382.

Zumbansen, P., 2012. Defining the Space of Transnational Law: Legal Theory, Global Governance and Legal Pluralism. In: G. Handl, J. Zekoll and P. Zumbansen, eds., Beyond Territoriality. Nijhoff: Brill, 53–86.



How to Cite

Struelens, O. (2024) “Trust and the law in international child abduction cases”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 14(1), pp. 257–286. doi: 10.35295/osls.iisl/0000-0000-0000-1346.