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Legal News | 16.09.21

Child Abduction

Child Abduction can be a real risk after a relationship has broken down irretrievably and one partner may wish to return to their home country, taking the children with them. However, unless the appropriate consent has been obtained, it is a criminal offence to remove the child under the Child Abduction Act 1984.

Child Abduction is the unlawful removal of a child under the age of 16 from the UK without the appropriate consent of any person who has Parental Responsibility. To read more about Parental Responsibility, please see our newsletter ‘Parental Responsibility- Do I have it?’ HERE

Taking your child outside of the UK

You can take your child outside of the UK on holiday, for a period of up to 28 days without the permission of every adult with Parental Responsibility if a Child Arrangement Order provides that the child in question  lives  with you and there is no other order prohibiting this.  If there are no orders about your child, you should make sure any trip abroad is agreed before you go and in any circumstances It is always best practice to obtain permission.

To avoid any uncertainty, the consent of those with Parental Responsibility ought to be obtained in writing. This could be done by signing a Consent Order which must be approved and sealed by a Judge but a signed, written agreement is sufficient. If those with Parental Responsibility do not agree, you can ask the Court for permission and make an application for a Specific Issue Order.

Preventing your child from being taken outside of the UK

If you think your child is at risk, you can make an urgent application to the Court for a Prohibited Steps Order. In some urgent cases, applications may be made to the High court who have powers to make Orders to seize passports, and prevent the child and parent from leaving the UK. You can also notify the Police who will activate the “Port Alert” system to ensure officials are looking out for a child where abduction is suspected.

What if the child has already been taken outside of the UK?

Cases of International Child Abduction are generally dealt with under the Hague Convention. Most countries have signed up to the Hague Convention which aims to ‘promote the secure and prompt return of children wrongfully removed or retained’.

In order to return your child to the UK, you will need to demonstrate their habitual residence prior to the removal, show the child was wrongfully removed, and contact must be established with the Central Authority in the UK or the Central Authority of the country your child has been taken to.

Child Abduction matters can be complex, and often applications need to be made swiftly to prevent the abduction or a child, or to ensure the prompt return of an abducted child.

The Family Team at Wansbroughs are well equipped to advise on all private children law matters including Child Abduction. If you would like further information or assistance, we offer a free 30 minute initial consultation to all new enquiries. Call 01225 896100 or email family@wansbroughs.com.