Parental Child Abduction
What is parental child abduction?
Parental child abduction takes place when a child is taken from the country they live in by one parent without the consent of the other parent. An abduction can also happen if a parent takes a child abroad for an agreed holiday but then refuses to return them at the end of the agreed period.
What can I do if I am concerned about possible abduction?
If you consider that your child is at risk of abduction, urgent steps can be taken to apply to the Court for a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent their other parent from removing them from the country.
After an abduction has occurred, it is vital that urgent steps are taken to secure the child’s return. International law can be complex and it is important that specialist advice is taken. We are members of the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit’s panel of child abduction lawyers and can advise you on the best way to locate a child who has been brought to the UK or taken abroad.
How does the Court decide applications for a child to be returned to their home country?
The Court will need to decide whether the child is “habitually resident” in the country from which they have been taken. A person’s habitual residence is the place in which they are settled and have family and social connections. The Court will then also have to consider whether the other parent gave consent for the child to be taken out of the country, or has since behaved in a way which would make the other parent believe that they agree to the child remaining out of the country.
If the Court is satisfied that the child is habitually resident in the country from which they have been taken and that the other parent did not agree to them being removed, then it should order that the child is returned.
Are there any defences to an application for a child to be returned?
Even if the Court is satisfied that the child is habitually resident in the other country and was removed without the consent of the other parent, it can refuse to return the child if one of the defences set out in the Hague Convention are established. These can be summarised as:
1. That the child would be at grave risk of harm if they return to their home country;
2. That the child objects to returning to their home country;
3. That the child has settled in their new environment;
4. That the other parent was not exercising their rights of custody for the child at the time of the removal.
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