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Child Abduction

William Shakespeare

"Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none."

At McAlister Family Law we have the Children Law Specialists with the expertise to help you in preventing and dealing with Parental Child Abduction, as well as assisting when a parent is looking to relocate with their child within the United Kingdom or to another country.

The United Kingdom is signatory to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction which came into force under domestic legislation through the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985.

Whether dealing with abduction of your child, or seeking to move to a new home, both situations need a careful and detailed consideration of the steps to be taken by a Lawyer with the proper experience required for a successful outcome. We are those Lawyers.

What is Parental Child Abduction?

Parental child abduction occurs when a person who is connected to a child takes them away from, or prevents them returning to, their country of habitual residence, that is the country they normally reside in, without the permission of either those with parental responsibility or the courts.

Is It a Criminal Offence to abduct a Child?

The Child Abduction Act of 1984, provides that it is a criminal offence for a parent or anyone connected with a child to remove them from the United Kingdom for more than 28 days without the prior consent of the other parent or person with Parental Responsibility for the child or order from the courts allowing them to do so. A person is connected for the purposes of the Act if they are parent of the child, guardian or special guardian, or anyone who has an order for the child to live with them.

What is International Parental Child Abduction?

International Parental Child Abduction occurs when a parent or other person connected with the child removes them from the country where the habitually reside (usual country where the child lives) across an international border, without the consent of the other parent, or in breach of an existing court order. Abduction could be by a parent who does not usually have care of the child, or in fact the parent with whom the child usually lives.

An increase in marriage or relationship between partners of different nationality or cultures, combined with higher divorce rates, easier foreign travel and grater international integration and immigration have lead to rise in custody battles between parents which cross international boundaries. Inevitably this means that the Family Courts have ever increasing experience of dealing with such cases.

Can the Police do anything to stop an abduction?

The view of the Police may differ from one place to the next and one force may have more experience than another in dealing with such issues. However, don’t hesitate in contacting the Police in the first instant if you are concerned that an attempted abduction of your child is in progress, as the Police may be able to take steps more quickly in preventing a removal taking place. For example the Police could instigate an “All Ports Alert” which is intended to prevent a person travelling across an international boundary with a child without the consent of another. That may then delay matters for long enough for additional protective steps to take place.

"Went to see Amanda for advice 18 months ago. none pushy, friendly and practical. Really was what I needed at a very difficult time and would recommend to anyone needing a family law practise."
Paul Linderman

I’m worried my child may be at risk of abduction by the other parent, what shall I do?

It is very important to obtain immediate advice from us about the situation. Delaying might mean that opportunities are lost which could prevent an abduction in the first place. A good place for information and advice about the practical steps you can take to minimise the risks of abduction in the ReUnite Website  http://www.reunite.org ReUnite are an international child abduction charity which have useful guides providing information on steps to take if you have concern that there is a real and immediate risk to your child being permanently removed from the United Kingdom. The best practical steps clearly include knowing where your child is going to be if spending time with the other parent and ensuring that the child’s passport(s) are secure from the other parent. If you are in any doubt, you may apply to the court for a Prohibited Steps Order from the Family Court, which is an order intended to prevent the steps that are likely to be taken and could include orders which require the parent seeking to remove the child to surrender their passport. 

What if my child has already been abducted?

If an abduction has taken place or a child has not been returned from a period of spending time with the other parent in accordance with a prior agreement or court order, then are legal steps that can be taken to make sure that the child is returned to its country of habitual residence. The procedures depend on the country to which the child has been taken or retained. Generally speaking in the abduction is within Europe then the Brussels II legislation applies, or if another country then the Hague convention will apply, provided it is a signatory. There are some countries which or not but where the United Kingdom may have a stand alone agreement to deal with child abduction cases. Although it is intended that procedures and interpretation of the legislation is interpreted the same in different jurisdictions, in reality any differences do mean that timescales can vary from one to another.

Can child abduction take place within the United Kingdom?

In the legal sense any removal or attempted removal of a child to another part of the United Kingdom would not be dealt with under the Brussels II or Hague Convention legislation rather The Children Act 1989. However, the Family Courts now recognise that a removal of a child to another country with the United Kingdom may be more disruptive for the relationship between the child and parent left behind, than may be the case than if a removal to another country within Europe might be. As such, the courts would not enthusiastically endorse a parent acting unilaterally in making such a move without agreement of the other parent and could and does make Prohibited Steps Orders to prevent such actions being taken, pending a full and proper investigation by the courts as to whether such a move would likely to be in a child’s best interests.

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Seek further advice regarding child abduction from our expert Child Law team today.

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