What is child abduction?
In the context of family law, child abduction is where one parent takes the child out of the country that they normally live in without the consent of the other parent. This applies to situations where one parent has taken the child back to their home country, if that differs from where the child usually lives. According to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, up to a third of parents do not realise they are committing child abduction by removing the child from their country of residence without the other parent’s consent.
I think there is a risk that my child’s mother / father is planning on taking our child out of the country, without my consent. What should I do?
If you have parental responsibility for the child, or believe you have rights of custody, and you are concerned that your child may be taken out of the country without your consent you should consult a solicitor as soon as possible. Rather than wait for the child to be taken out of the country, we can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order preventing the other parent from travelling with the child.
If you are the parent that the child lives with, it would be advisable to safeguard your child’s passport while the application is being dealt with at Court. In the event the child lives with their other parent, a solicitor can seek that the passport is held by a third party during the course of the application, to prevent the child from being taken abroad.
What to do if the child has already been taken? How do I get my child back?
As soon as you discover that the parent is not going to return the child, and you have reason to suspect that they are leaving England and Wales, you should call the police who can who can provide an All Ports Warning. You will need to provide a description and photographs of the child. The purpose of an All Ports Warning is to prevent the abducting parent from leaving England & Wales.
It is also important to act quickly and seek legal advice immediately from a specialist family solicitor at Rayden Solicitors. If you believe your child may still be in the country, it is possible to make an application to the High Court for Port Alert (if the Police have not put one on) and for a Location Order and Passport Order which will enable the police to locate your child and seize their passport. This application can be made out of hours if necessary, by telephoning a duty Judge.
Should an All Ports Warning not prove successful, or if they have in fact travelled before the warning was put in place, you should obtain urgent legal advice on the procedure for the child’s return as this varies depending on the country that they have been taken to.
The United Kingdom is a signatory to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. If your child is abducted and taken to one of the other countries who have signed the Convention, a procedural framework is in place to return the child. However, where a child has been taken to a country which is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, the procedure will depend on the country concerned. For example, the UK has entered into a protocol with Pakistan and a declaration with Egypt. It is therefore extremely important that you take advice quickly to establish the quickest way of securing your child’s safe return.
I want to take my children out of the country but the child’s other parent will not provide their consent. What can I do?
In the event an agreement cannot be reached with your child’s other parent in correspondence or mediation, we can apply to the Court for a Specific Issue Order dealing with the child’s removal from the jurisdiction for the purpose of a holiday. Alternatively, if you are seeking a more permanent move abroad, you should take legal advice as to whether the Court will consider the move in the best interests of the child, before commencing Court proceedings.
For more information on the issues raised in this blog please do not hesitate to contact one of the team at Rayden Solicitors.