Child Abduction Act 1984
Subject to the Child Abduction Act 1984, a criminal offence occurs if a child is taken out of the United Kingdom by a person connected with said child without the ‘appropriate consent’. ‘Appropriate consent’ means:
- The consent of each of the following:
- The permission of the court.
There are some exceptions, for example, a person named on a child arrangements order as the person with whom a child lives is permitted to take the child out of the country for less than one month without the above consents, and a special guardian is permitted to do so for less than three months. There are also some potential defences to the criminal offence of abduction, but you should take legal advice if you consider that one of these might apply.
Keeping a child in another country beyond the amount of time that the relevant people have consented to is a type of abduction called wrongful retention. This is not currently a criminal offence in the UK.
Preventing child abduction
It can be easier to prevent a parental child abduction taking place than it is to go through the courts to have an abducted child returned to their country of residence.
The options and appropriate action will depend on the circumstances. In low risk situations it may be appropriate to try to speak to the other parent if you are concerned that they might try to remove your child from the country without your consent, or to attend mediation with them. However, in other circumstances this may not be advisable.
Other potential measures could include:
- Practical measures such as ensuring that you hold your child’s only travel documents or that they are somewhere safe;
- Applying for a child arrangements order
- Applying for a prohibited steps order which is an order forbidding the other parent from taking the child out of the country;
- Raising an ‘objection’ with HM Passport Office to the issuing of any passports for the child (this is only possible where certain conditions are met);
- Involving the police and seeking an ‘All Ports Alert’;
- Applying to the High Court for a variety of orders which could include orders to locate and/or collect the child and return them to your care, and/or orders that the child’s and potentially the other parents’ travel documents are seized;
- Completing ‘description forms’ so that they are ready if your child is abducted.
The appropriate action depends entirely on the circumstances and sometimes action needs to be taken very quickly. If you consider that there is a risk that your child could be abducted then you should take urgent legal advice.
International child abduction
If your child has been abducted then the appropriate action will depend on which country they have been abducted to.
The Hague Convention 1980
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 aims to ensure the swift, safe return of an abducted child back to their country of residence.
An application can be made under the Hague Convention 1980 when a child is taken to or kept in a country that is not their usual country of residence without the consent of both parents and where both countries are party to the convention.
There are a large number of countries including the United Kingdom which are signed up to the Hague Convention 1980.
If the country your child has been taken to is not part of the Hague Convention 1980 we can advise you on other options available to you in order to seek to secure your child’s safe return to this country. This may include applying to the court in this country and/or in the country to which your child has been taken.
In any situation it is essential that you act quickly and seek legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity.
If you are accused of abducting your child
You may have received court papers in this country or another country accusing you of abducting your child, or have been contacted by the police or other authorities. It is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. There are limited defences to applications for the return of a child under the Hague Convention and your lawyer can advise you whether any of these might apply to you and represent you in the proceedings. Call us on 0161 696 6193.