If your child has been taken out of the UK without your consent, or you are concerned that the other parent is likely to do so, we know how deeply distressing this will be for you and your child. Child abduction is a serious offence and it is crucial to understand how to act in this situation to ensure their swift and safe return.
Similarly, you may have questions about how you can take your child abroad legally. Knowing your legal rights is crucial to avoid any repercussions and accusations of child abduction.
Our Children Law specialists can support you in either circumstance, working with you to prevent child abduction or providing legal action if your child has been wrongfully removed from the UK.
What is child abduction?
Under the Child Abduction Act 1984 it is an offence for a parent to take a child out of the UK without the consent of anyone with parental responsibility or Court Order. There are exceptions for Special Guardians who can remove a child for up to 3 months and a parent with a “live in” Order who can remove their child for up to a month without the consent of the other parent.
There are two main types of child abduction:
- International Child Abduction: This occurs when a child is taken or retained by one parent to a foreign country without the consent of the other parent or without a Court Order. International child abduction cases are often complex, involving legal and diplomatic considerations under international treaties, such as the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
- Domestic Child Abduction: Also known as internal abduction, this occurs when a child is taken within the same country without the necessary consent or Court Order. Domestic child abduction can happen when one parent removes the child from their usual residence to another county, leading to disputes about where the children are to live, how much contact they are to have with the other parent and which schools they will attend.
What legal actions can be taken in child abduction cases?
If you are concerned that your child’s other parent is likely to abduct them, or they have already taken your child, there are several preventative and legal measures that can be explored to enable their quick return:
- The Hague Convention: For international child abduction cases, the Hague Convention aims to secure the prompt return of wrongfully removed or retained children to their country of habitual residence. Countries that are signatories to the Convention work together to ensure the child’s return.
- Preventive Measures: In cases where there is a risk of child abduction, individuals can seek preventive measures, such as Prohibited Steps Orders or All Ports Warnings. These legal orders aim to prevent the child from being taken out of the country by alerting the relevant authorities at ports and airports to the risk and distributing the details of the child at risk. To enable the order to be enforced, the police must be satisfied the risk is genuine and imminent.
- Legal Enforcement: When a child has been wrongfully abducted, the parent who is left behind can seek legal enforcement to secure the child’s return through the Court system. This may involve applying for a Child Arrangements Order or a Specific Issue Order to determine the child’s living arrangements.
Contact our Family Law Solicitors
If your child has been abducted or this is likely to happen, it is crucial to act swiftly. Time is of the essence, especially in international abduction cases governed by the Hague Convention. Our expert team of Child Law specialists are on hand to guide you through the steps to ensure your child’s safe return. Do not hesitate to contact a member of our Family & Relationships team from our offices in Andover, Romsey, Salisbury or Witney either using our Contact Form, emailing moc.n1709418279ellub1709418279rekra1709418279p@ofn1709418279i1709418279 or calling your local office on one of the telephone numbers below: