For you and your family

Child Abduction and Relocation - the international movement of children

The movement of children internationally is a complex field of law. Relocating with children without the other parent’s consent can lead to allegations of Child Abduction.

In the event that your child is taken out of the country without your consent, you need specialist advice quickly and efficiently. Similarly if you are accused of child abduction, you need to know that you are being advised by experts in this specialist field. In this complex area of law proper steps need to be taken urgently. Taking the wrong steps can have long term consequences for you and your children.

We are experts in the field of International children’s Law and have been involved in some of the most difficult cases that have shaped and progressed English Family Law. Our work has been recognised and we are known as one of the leading firms in the field by both legal commentators and legal directories. We have extensive experience in dealing with cases where children have been removed both within the UK and abroad.

We are also known for our work in those difficult cases when a parent wants to move abroad leaving the other parent behind, and have represented parents on both sides providing pro-active support and professional and effective representation. 

We are members of the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit’s panel of specialist solicitors, and team members are Resolution Accredited in the field. Given our expertise in children’s law generally we are regularly asked to represent the child caught in the middle of these parental disputes.  We have handled cases at every level of court and, in representing children, have a known reputation for ensuring their voices are clear and independently heard.

Here are some of the questions that our team are frequently asked:

What is Child Abduction?

If you take your child abroad without permission you may be breaking the law and face proceedings to have the child returned. Consent is required of all those with parental responsibility (or the Family Court) before any child can be taken abroad. The only exception is if you already have an Order from the Family Court that your child “lives with” or (as found in “old style” orders) you have the benefit of a ‘Residence order’. In that circumstance you can take your child abroad for up to 4 weeks without the other parent’s consent, any time beyond the 4 weeks requires the consent of the other parent or permission of the Family Court. Although usually dealt with in Family Courts, parental child abduction may also be a criminal offence.

If you take your child abroad with agreement but fail to return within the agreed time (or at all) it is known as “unlawful retention”, and whilst not attracting a criminal penalty may still result in Court proceedings for the return of the child.

What is the Hague Convention on Child Abduction?

The world is divided in two, between those countries that have signed up to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction and those that have not ( known as non- convention countries).

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction or Hague Abduction Convention is a multilateral treaty that provides an expeditious method to return a child wrongfully taken by a parent from one member country to another.  The United Kingdom and all the EU Countries are signatories to the Hague Convention. The UK (via the UK Central Authority) is able to provide support and assistance to parents whose children have been brought to this country wrongfully or to those parents whose children have been taken to other signatory countries, by referring the parent to that country’s Central Authority.

What should I do if my child has been abducted?

You need to act quickly and contact the Police giving them as much information as you can – including details of the person who you believe they are with, passport details of the child(ren) and likely destinations. In the event that they may not have yet left the country ask the Police for an “all Ports alert”. If they have left ask the police to alert Interpol.

Get specialist legal advice quickly. If you are financially eligible, then legal aid is available for child abduction. If your child has been taken to one of the Countries that is a signatory to the Hague Abduction Convention (see above), then The UK Central Authority will assist you in applying for your child’s return. Some countries are better than others at dealing with these proceedings and therefore it is still advisable to seek specialist advice and support here to assist you. If your child has been taken to a “Non-convention” country then there are also potential remedies depending on the individual circumstances. In either event urgent steps may need to be taken.

We have experience of representing parents whose children have been taken to a wide range of Countries and jurisdictions (both Hague and Non Hague) and have developed an effective network of lawyers in many of those countries with whom we have worked collaboratively to provide our clients with the best service available in what are always difficult cases.

How can I prevent my child being abducted?

This is always difficult area as much depends on the individual facts. However Reunite International have provided a useful and practical guide (Child Abduction Prevention Guide).

Child Relocation (otherwise known as “leave to remove”)

How can I legally move abroad with my child?

It is vital should you wish to move abroad with your child, and away from their other parent that you take the right steps in a timely fashion. If agreement cannot be reached then permission of the Court is needed. 

 Applications to Court to relocate abroad with a child are finely balanced. They raise strong emotions and much opposition, and therefore care is required. In all cases, the welfare of the child is the Court’s paramount consideration.  England has historically been one of the most liberal countries in the world in allowing relocations, although in recent years, and owing to an increase in ‘shared parenting’, amongst other factors, parents seeking to relocate face greater challenges, although still many cases succeed.  

 The approach at the start of the process is very important as the Court will scrutinise the reason for relocation even when it is a parent seeking to return to their Country of origin after the break down of the parental relationship.

We have a strong reputation for acting in even the most difficult cases and have represented parents on both sides with success.   Again due to our experience we are often asked to represent the child caught in the middle and are well known for ensuring the child’s voice is heard independently.

If you are concerned about child abduction or relocation please contact our specialist team on +44 7935 3522. Alternatively, you can contact us by completing our online contact form