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Disputes Involving Child Abduction

At Garratts' our highly experienced team of child abduction solicitors is here to advise you about your case and legal options if you fear your child may be at risk of being abducted or has been removed without your agreement. To speak to our team, call us on 0161 665 350.

In 2020/21, the police recorded approximately 975 child abduction cases in England and Wales (Statista.com). One of the greatest fears of parents throughout the UK is the possibility of one's child being abducted. It is not unusual for disputes to arise between parents, especially where one parent may have removed a child without permission. 

 

What is child abduction?

Child abduction is the removal of a child under the age of 16 from the UK for more than 28 days without the consent of a parent or other person with parental responsibility. It is not necessary for the person moving the child to be aware that they have no right to do so.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 (as amended in 1996) provides a process through which a parent can secure the prompt return of a child to their country of habitual residence. 

The Convention applies to a child under the age of 16 who is habitually resident in one country (the "Contracting State") and is abducted to another contracting state in breach of the law of the state of habitual residence law. The Convention provides a mechanism for the return of the child to the contracting state of habitual residence. 

 

How does child abduction happen?

International child abduction can occur when parents marry and move abroad, where there is a business connection with another country; when children are taken on holiday with one parent and not returned to the other parent; or when parents separate and one parent abducts a child and takes them to a foreign country.

 

What are the types of child abduction?

According to Child Law Advice, there are three categories of child abduction:

1. International parent-child abduction is where a child has been taken overseas without parental consent by the other parent.

2. Retention without parental consent (or wrongful retention) is where children are retained, i.e. following an agreed holiday or trip overseas 

3. Abduction threats are where a child is at risk of being taken overseas without the other parent’s consent.

 

Is it illegal for a parent to abduct their child?

Under the Child Abduction Act 1984, it is illegal for a parent to deprive the other parent of access to their child under the age of 16 without their consent unless the court has given leave for this to happen. This can be trialled as a criminal offence and may also be regarded as contempt of court. 

 

What can I do if I suspect my co-parent of having abducted my child overseas?

If you suspect that your co-parent or another person with parental responsibility has abducted your child, you must first inform the police. You may then apply to the Central Authority of the country the child is being held in under The Hague Convention, which may assist you with your child's safe return from one of the 64 signatory countries.

Contact our team of family law solicitors today to find out more details about this process. You can fill in our contact form or call us on 0161 665 350.

 

What if I want to move abroad with my child legally, but my co-parent disagrees? 

If you and your co-parent cannot agree with the decision to move abroad with your child, you may apply for the court’s consent through a consent order.

During the process of applying for consent, the court will always prioritise the child’s welfare and best interests, as well as all other relevant factors such as the financial situation of both parents and their proximity to the requested destination.

If the court grants consent to the relocation, it will also determine conditions and/or obligations that both parents must follow to ensure that the child's best interests are maintained during the relocation. 

 

My child has been abducted within the UK. What can I do? 

If your child is a resident of England or Wales, and your co-parent is planning on moving them to a part outside of England and Wales’ legal jurisdiction, i.e. Scotland or Northern Ireland, and without your parental consent, you should apply for a prohibited steps order (PSO) as soon as possible to prevent this from happening.  

 

Can I get legal aid if my child is at risk of or has been abducted? 

You may apply for legal aid, providing you are a parent or person with parental responsibility and subject to you passing the other tests applied in assessing eligibility. 

Why should I choose Garratts to help me with my child abduction dispute?

At Garratts, we have a team of family law solicitors and barristers experienced in handling various child abduction disputes. We help parents and legal guardians through the entire process, from the moment the application for child return is filed until the child is safely back with his or her family. 

We understand how stressful and distressing the situation is for the child and the family left behind. Our team works quickly and with sensitivity to the circumstances to resolve the dispute. If you want to speak to one of our family law solicitors about your case, contact our team on 0161 665 350 or request a callback.

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