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What is Parental Child Abduction?

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Christina’s Story
Christina had spent the past three years since her separation from Mark juggling her successful career in banking with caring for their four year old little girl, Maisie. Mark chatted to Maisie on Skype from time to time and saw her occasionally, but he was also very busy with work and on top of that he had begun a new relationship. His girlfriend was already 8 months pregnant and Mark really seemed more interested in the new baby than in seeing Maisie.

One day Christina’s boss told her that her team would be relocating to New York. It was an amazing opportunity, and as head of the team Christina had an opportunity to make a name for herself if the relocation proved successful. The company promised to arrange accommodation for Christina and Maisie and to sort out a school and childcare for Maisie. Christina and Mark didn’t really speak to each other anymore, but Christina sent Mark an email to let him know that she and Maisie would be relocating to New York. She concluded the e-mail by saying that he could visit Maisie whenever he wanted. Mark seemed so busy with his new girlfriend and the baby was due any day now. Mark hadn’t seen Maisie for over three months, let alone paid any maintenance for her, so Christina was sure that he wouldn’t be that bothered. After all it, was a good excuse for Mark to have a holiday to New York if he really wanted to visit, and he could carry on Skyping Maisie – what was the difference if they were in another country?

Three months after arriving in New York, Christina was loving her new job and Maisie was settled in at school and making friends. One day Christina was served with a summons to attend court – Mark had commenced proceedings under the Hague Convention 1980 for Maisie’s return to England. This was followed a phone call from a police officer in London wanting to speak to Christina and saying that they wanted to speak to her in relation to a possible child abduction. “How can I abduct my own child?” replied Christina.

What is parental child abduction?

Removing a child from the country in which they live, without the consent of all individuals who have parental responsibility for the child, is a criminal offence in the United Kingdom. There are also a number of legal agreements between countries designed to secure the return of children who are wrongfully removed or retained away from their home country. The most widely used is the 1980 Hague Convention.

As Christina did not have Mark’s consent to removing Maisie from the UK to the United States, she may have unwittingly committed a criminal offence and find herself at the end of an application for Maisie’s return under the Hague Convention. She will only be able to resist returning Maisie to England if she is able to establish one of the limited defences to the application. The primary aim of the 1980 Hague Convention is, however, to secure the return of children to the country of their habitual residence, so that the court in their home country can make decisions about where the child should live and what contact the child should have with the other parent.

Sometimes parental child abduction can involve a covert removal of a child from their primary carer. On other occasions primary carers remove children to escape violent relationships and seek refuge with their family in another country, or wish to return home after a failed attempt at a family relocation to another country.

In this example, the consequences for Christina of not having legal advice before moving Maisie out of the country are the potential loss of her employment opportunity, having to return to the UK where she has no accommodation, and a possible criminal charge.

If your child has been taken to another country without your consent, or if you want advice about how to relocate a child lawfully to another country, please make an appointment to see one of Freemans specialist international children’s law solicitors by calling 020 7935 3522 or by email on