5 Things You Need To Know About Child Abduction
Child Abduction  |  Child law  |  Family law

5 Things You Need To Know About Child Abduction

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Walker Family Law
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It can be a parent’s worst nightmare: the other parent taking their child out of the country without their consent.

5 Things You Need To Know About Child Abduction

Parental kidnapping, as it has been called, can happen for a variety of reasons. It may be that the abducting parent has family in another country and wants the child to live with them, it may happen as a response to a disagreement with the other parent over arrangements for the child, or it may simply be done out of spite towards the other parent.

Whatever the reason, child abduction is a very serious issue, that can have catastrophic consequences for the child, and their relationship with the other parent.

It is therefore essential that parents have as much information as possible regarding child abduction, so that they know how to prevent it, and what to do if it happens.

Here are five of the most important things a parent needs to know:

1. It is a criminal offence to take a child out of the UK without consent

It is a criminal offence under the Child Abduction Act 1984 for anyone to take or send a child under the age of 16 outside of the UK without the appropriate consent.

What is the appropriate consent depends upon the circumstances, but for most children it will mean the consent of the mother and of the father, if he has parental responsibility for the child.

As it is a criminal matter, the police should be contacted if it is feared that a child may be taken from the UK without consent, or if they have already been taken.

If you wish to take a child out of the UK but can’t obtain the appropriate consent then you can apply to the court for its consent.

2. It is not an offence to move a child to another country in the UK

Note that the above refers only to taking the child out of the UK. It is not a criminal offence to take a child from one country in the UK to another, even if the two countries have different legal systems, as is the case with England, Wales, and Scotland.

Having said that, if you wish to take your child to another country within the UK then it is still highly recommended that you obtain the consent of the other parent.

If your child has been taken to another country in the UK you can seek an order that they be returned, and that order can be registered and enforced in the courts of the country to which they have been taken.

3. How the court decides whether to give consent

The court will only make an order allowing the removal of a child from the UK without the other parent’s consent if it considers that this would be best for the child’s welfare.

Relevant factors here include the ascertainable wishes of the child, the child’s needs, any harm that the child may suffer, and how capable each parent is of meeting the child’s needs.

The court will also of course consider such things as the reasons for the move, and the effect upon the child of reduced contact with the other parent.

4. You can take steps to stop your child being abducted

As we will see in a moment, it can be very difficult to secure the return of a child who has been abducted abroad. It is therefore best to prevent any abduction, if you can.

If you have reason to believe that your child will be abducted imminently (within 48 hours) then you can ask the local police to issue a port alert, which will alert all UK points of departure, to try to prevent an abduction. The port alert lasts for 28 days.

Otherwise, if the matter is not so urgent you can apply to the court for an order preventing the removal of the child from the UK. This may result in the other parent making a cross-application for the court’s consent, as explained above.

5. It is much easier to secure a return from a Hague Convention country

If your child has been abducted to another, non-UK, country then unless the other parent agrees to return them you will need to obtain a court order for their return.

Exactly how you do this depends upon whether the country to which the child has been taken is a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. If it is, then there is a streamlined procedure which can secure the return of the child quite quickly.

Most countries are signatories to the Convention but some are not, mostly in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

If your child has been abducted to a country that is not a signatory to the Convention then you will need to take proceedings in the courts of that country to secure their return. This can be a longer, more complicated process, with a greater chance that the courts will not order a return.

As stated above, child abduction is an extremely serious issue, and if you have concerns that your child has been, or will be, abducted, then you should take expert legal advice, as a matter of urgency.

How We Can Help

Ian Walker Family Law & Mediation Solicitors are award-winning family solicitors and are recognised as one of the leading family law firms in the South West of England with services covering family law & mediation, divorce, child law, and arbitration. Please contact the team to speak to one of our specialist solicitors.