Child Arrangements

International Child Abduction

Blonde little girl holding mums hand on walk

International Child Abduction occurs when a child is taken across an international border without the consent of those with Parental Responsibility (usually the other parent), or a court order. This is considered a crime under both UK and international law. 

International Child Abduction cases are highly complex and must be swiftly dealt with, making it crucial that you seek expert legal help if your child has been abducted, or you suspect that they may be at risk of abduction.   

Our specialist lawyers can provide the guidance and support you need to navigate the legal process and protect your child’s best interests. 

Trusted Expertise in International Child Abduction Cases 

Walker Family Law is one of the few legal practices in the Southwest that are authorised to receive referrals from the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit (‘ICACU’) in incoming abduction cases into England and Wales.  

The ICACU acts as the central authority for England and Wales for the operation of various international treaties relating to children.  Central authorities facilitate international co-operation by acting as a two-way contact point between applicants, domestic courts and competent authorities in their own country and the central authority in the other country. 

We can represent both the “left behind parents” whose children have been abducted to England from a Hague Convention Country (see below), as well as respondent parents who have brought their children to England and wish to oppose a return to the originating country.  

We can:  

  • Help you obtain court orders to locate a child whose whereabouts are hidden or unknown.  
  • Seek court orders to prevent onward abduction.  
  • Assist with the return of children to their country of habitual residence.  
  • Represent you in court proceedings related to international child abduction cases.  

Outward Child Abduction to a Hague Convention Country

If your child has been taken from England to a country that is a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction (which includes most countries in Europe, North and South America and Australasia – see here for a full list of signatories), then you will be able to use a ‘streamlined’ procedure which can secure the return of the child quite quickly. 

In such cases we can assist you with the available options.  

The first option is to contact the ICACU to liaise with the central authority of the other Country for legal applications under the 1980 Hague Convention.  

Another option is to apply for an order requiring the child’s return to England through the Court, which may be enforceable in the other Country if they are signatory to the Hague Convention. 

Outward Abduction to a non-Hague Convention Country

If a child is abducted or suspected to have been taken to a country that is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, tracing and returning them is much more complex since there may be very little international protocol to assist. 

You could, for example, obtain an order for the return of the child from the court here, and use that order to request the court in the country to which your child has been taken to order that the child be returned to this country. 

If that is not successful then you may need to take proceedings in the court of the country to which your child has been taken, to seek an order securing their return. This can be a longer, more complicated process, with a greater chance that the courts will not order an return. 

If your child has been taken to a non-Hague Convention country, it is vital that you contact us as soon as possible. We can guide you through your available options. 

Whether the child has been abducted to a Hague Convention country or a non-Hague Convention country, assistance can also be sought from Reunite International, a UK charity that offers support and information on international child abduction. Reunite also offers a specialist mediation service that could help you and the other parent resolve issues, without recourse to a court. 

Preventing your child from being abducted

Securing the return of a child who has been abducted can be very difficult. Therefore it is best to prevent any abduction if possible. 

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. 

If the matter is not as urgent, you can apply to the court for an order preventing the removal of the child from the UK. We can help you making such an application. 

Legal Aid

Legal aid is available for cases of abduction from the UK, subject to means. For cases where the child is brought to the UK, left-behind parents living overseas and using the 1980 Hague Convention are automatically entitled to legal aid. Parents defending an allegation of abduction may be entitled to legal aid, subject to means. 

Our team is here to answer your questions and provide guidance on your options for legal support. 

Child Arrangements services

Child arrangements can be one of the most challenging aspects of a divorce or a separation, our expert team of lawyers will help you navigate the process with clarity and confidence.

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