Child Abduction Solicitors
Family law includes supporting families whose child has been abducted by a parent and taken abroad without the other parent’s permission. Child abduction cases are, thankfully, rare. They definitely need a family law solicitor who specialises in parental kidnapping as it requires knowledge of both family and criminal laws.
Child Abduction in England and Wales and the Law
In the eyes of the law, child abduction can range from a parent taking their children abroad for a holiday without the permission of the other parent (assuming the other parent also has Parental Responsibility). In more severe cases, it refers to a parent taking and keeping a child abroad without the permission of the other parent. Abduction includes parents with a Residence Order holding their child overseas for more than a month without obtaining agreement from anyone else who has Parental Responsibility.
Child Abduction Overseas
Although uncommon, there is nothing new about international abductions. The prevalence of overseas holidays and people moving abroad means it has a higher profile than ever. It is not uncommon to read in the press about a parent who has taken their child back to their country of origin for a holiday and to see their extended family, and not returning.
The Hague Convention (or, to use its correct name, The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction) came into effect in December 1983. It was created to protect children’s welfare regarding custody arrangements, and to deter a parent from taking their child to another country with the expectation that a family court may be more sympathetic or favourable to them. The Hague Convention is purely focused on returning a child to the country in which they normally reside. It does not assess any aspect of the ruling which led to the child’s living arrangements.
Child Abduction Law – Family or Criminal?
The kidnapping of a child by someone other than a parent is a criminal act. Parental child abduction is also a crime whether it is done by someone with Parental Responsibility, a Residence Order, or with Special Guardianship.
It is not a criminal act for a person with Parental Responsibility to remove the child to another part of the UK, or not to return them after contact, though they will be in breach of the Contact Order if it awarded the other parent residency. Without a Court Order in place, there is little the police can do unless they consider the child to be at risk.
How to Prevent Child Abduction
Once you have agreed on child arrangements, set everything out explicitly in a parenting plan. Include details about your child’s:
- living arrangements
- financial support
The document is not legally binding, but it can act as evidence for obtaining a Court Order in future.
How to Protect Your Child from Parental Abduction
If you have any reason at all to suspect your ex-partner or a member of their family may abduct your child, then seek family law advice about obtaining a Court Order and Residency Order. They can also apply for Court Orders which specifically prohibit your child from being removed from the country and which require their passport to be surrendered to prevent the other parent obtaining any travel documents for them. Court Orders can also state any contact visits are supervised by an independent party such as a social worker or contact worker.
Inform the police immediately if your ex-partner threatens to take your child away or not to return them after a contact visit.
Family solicitors can advise about your options and how enforceable each one is if the other parent breaches it.
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At The Family Law Experts, we work with specialist solicitors in all aspects of divorce, matrimonial, family and childcare law.
We offer an expert approach at a personal level for all our legal support. When dealing with family issues and family legal problems, our aim is to deal with each case in the least confrontational way possible, whilst still achieving the best results for our clients. We understand that when family issues arise and family relationships break down, real lives are affected, and the need for expert legal help and support is essential.