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Child Abduction

There is now increasing cheap international travel and immigration resulting in more relationships having international elements. Add to this the high rate of divorce/separation and the issue of international child abduction is becoming more prevalent. Child abduction occurs where one parent with parental responsibility takes their child, who is aged under 16 years, to an overseas country without the consent of the other parent or relevant Court order, which is a criminal offence. This is a very complicated area of law and one that would require expert legal advice whether or not you are the parent wanting the return of the child or the parent that wishes to take them abroad. Our specialist team can advise and guide you throughout and it is imperative that this is done as early as possible. Here we discuss the main issues surrounding international child abduction.

What should you do if you suspect your child may be abducted?

This will obviously be very difficult for you but it is important to act quickly in these situations. If you suspect that the other parent is going to try and remove your child from the country, you should immediately talk to an expert family law who has experience in these cases. They can apply for a Child Arrangements Order from the Court to stop this from happening. It is also possible to apply for various Court orders to stop a child being taken from the UK, such as:

  • A Prohibited Steps Order, which prevents a child from being removed from the UK.
  • A Specific Issue Order, which can cover the issue on whether the child can leave the UK.
  • A Child Arrangements Order can be used to state the parent that the child will live with.
  • A Ward of Court order, which results in the court being able to decide what is in the best interests of your child and prevents them from being taken overseas. This has other implications and so you should seek advice before pursuing this route.

 It is also possible to apply via a Court order to stop your child from being issued with a passport via Her Majesty’s Passport Office. Similarly, you or your lawyer should contact the Embassy, High Commission or Consulate of the other parent’s nationality. They could try and get a passport that way and you can ask them not to issue one. They can refuse your request but it is an option that is worth trying. It is also advisable to contact Reunite, who are the International Child Abduction Centre, and can provide information on what to do in these situations.

Where there is an imminent threat of your child being abducted (that is, within the next two days) then you can contact the police to ask for a “port alert”. This is done via the National Border Targeting Centre who will notify any point of departure in the UK to prevent the child being removed from the UK. This alert remains active for 28 days and then requires a court order to be extended.

What can should you do if your child has already been abducted?

Again, it is important to act quickly but make sure you have all the necessary information available and documentation available. You will need to have copies of your child’s birth certificate as well as any marriage certificate and divorce settlement as well as those relating to any court orders applicable to the child, for example, Child Arrangement Orders or Prohibitive Steps Orders. Have your child’s full details including all passport and nationality details. You will also need to have the details of the parent that has taken the child as well as their family and details of your relationship with them as well as of the abduction including where they left the UK and where they have gone to.

 If you are not sure where your child has been taken then the police can contact the international police organisation (Interpol) who can work with forces overseas to try and find your child. Again, it is vitally important to speak to an expert family lawyer who can help you. Depending on where your child is it may also be necessary to employ the services of a lawyer in that country. It may be that mediation can be used to help reach an agreement that both parents can agree to.

 Check if the country that your child has been taken to is covered by the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. This worldwide agreement covers around 80 countries and together with the European Convention can be used by UK citizens to help with the return of their child who has been wrongly taken to a state that is also a party to the Convention. You can contact the Central Authority of this country or the one in the country where your child has been taken and they will work towards the voluntary return of the child or take court action. These Conventions generally recognise that the country where the child usually lives is the best place for decisions to be made relating to the child’s future.

 It is also possible to get assistance and advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in these cases in relation to finding overseas lawyers and contacting the authorities abroad to get updates and to help with translation services and obtaining travel documents. This is particularly relevant where the child has been taken somewhere that is not a party to the Hague Convention. If your child has dual nationality then this may limit what the FCO can do to help.

What should you do if you have allegedly committed child abduction?

Unless there is a Court order allowing this or you have the consent of the other parent with parental responsibility then the above methods can be used to secure the return of your child. It is very important that you take legal advice on what you need to do and the options available to you.

Contact our Expert Child Abduction Lawyers Bradford Today

We can assist you whatever your circumstances to try and resolve the issue and bring around a result that works for everyone, particularly the child involved. This is a complicated area of law and it is therefore very important that you contact us as soon as you feel there may be an issue. Contact us via our online contact form or phone us on 01274 350 546 to talk through your options.

Call us on 01274 350 546 or fill out our online enquiry form.

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