WHAT IS INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION?

  • International child abduction occurs when children are removed from, or retained away from, the country where they live, without the consent of each of their parents or all holders of parental responsibility, or without a court order authorising their removal or retention.

 

  • Most commonly international parental child abduction occurs where one parent takes a child to another country without the other parent’s consent, or keeps a child in another country beyond the period agreed by the left-behind parent.

WHAT ARE THE LEGAL IMPLICATIONS OF INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION?

  • In many countries, child abduction is a criminal offence.

 

  • There are also a number of civil remedies that can be brought when international child abduction occurs. A number of states have signed up to international legal instruments which can ensure the safe return of children to their home country. The most widely used is the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of Child Abduction 1980 which is explained in greater detail below.

 

  • Additionally, all EU States (except Denmark) have signed up to the Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003(Brussels II Revised / Brussels IIa), which bolsters the terms of the 1980 Hague Convention and provides for the recognition and enforcement of orders concerning children across the European Union.

 

  • The 1996 Child Protection Convention has also been ratified by a large number of States, and like Brussels IIa can provide for the recognition and enforcement of orders concerning children and the jurisdictional rules that apply when a child has been wrongfully removed from their home country.

 

  • If you live in another country and your child has been brought to England & Wales without your consent, it may be possible for you to apply to the English court for your child to be made a Ward of Court and to be summarily returned to his or her home country.

WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU FEAR YOUR CHILD WILL BE ABDUCTED?

  • If you fear your child will be taken out of the country, you can contact the police who may be able to impose a “port alert” which will ensure that you are informed if an attempt is made to remove your child from the country. You should get legal advice as quickly as possible form a specialist lawyer as it may be possible to apply to court for an order which will prevent a wrongful removal.

 

  • In England and Wales, it may be possible to apply for a Prohibited Steps Order, or orders in Wardship to prevent an abduction.

WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU ARE ACCUSED OF INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION?

  • It is important to get legal advice from a specialist lawyer as quickly as possible. The law relating to the international movement of children is complex and ever-changing, and it is important that you are aware of any potential defences and how they would work in practice.

HOW CAN YOU LAWFULLY MOVE YOUR CHILD TO ANOTHER COUNTRY?

  • If consent to moving your child to another country is not forthcoming, you should seek legal advice with a view to making an application to court for an order that there be permission for your child to relocate to another country. It may be possible for matters to be resolved through mediation, without having to go to court, and many of our members are qualified mediators as well as being specialist lawyers.

HOW CAN YOU SECURE CONTACT WITH YOUR CHILD WHO LIVES IN ANOTHER COUNTRY?

  • If your child is living in England and Wales and you are being prevented from having contact with him or her, you may, if you live in a country that is a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention, submit an application under Article 21 of the Convention to secure the effective exercise of rights of access.

 

  • If you already have an order for contact which is not being complied with, it may, depending on the country in which it was made, be possible for that order to be registered and enforced in England and Wales

WHAT ARE THE AIMS OF THE 1980 HAGUE CONVENTION?

  • Article 1(a) of the Hague Convention states that its object is “to secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed or retained in any Contracting State”. The Hague Convention encourages the speedy disposal of applications. Article 2 says that contracting states must use “the most expeditious procedures available” and Article 11 widens this requirement to“Judicial or administrative authorities of Contracting States” and states that if a decision has not been reached within 6 weeks from the commencement of proceedings then the Applicant or either of the Central Authorities may request a statement of the reasons for the delay.

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