Child abduction in the context of family law refers to situations where one parent removes the child from their known residence and relocates them elsewhere without informing the other parent.
Child abduction cases are complex, involving law enforcement and social care agencies abroad. A solicitor proficient in child abduction cases must also understand international treaties and foreign law and be able to work effectively with overseas lawyers.
RVS Solicitors are Experienced in Child Abduction Cases
RVS Solicitors is a firm with an international focus in both family and immigration law. As such, we have particular expertise in all aspects of child abduction, from preventing potential child abductions, to representing the left-behind parent and getting the child returned, to defending parents accused of child abduction.
Our co-director and head of the family, Rakhi Singal, is well-recognized as an expert in children law. In cases of child abduction, she will work closely with foreign agencies, lawyers, and Courts to ensure the welfare of your child is paramount at all times.
Our family law team will fight tenaciously to ensure your child is returned to their country of habitual residence. Also, we can put in place emergency injunctions to prevent a possible abduction happening in the first place.
Conversely, in cases where you find yourself in a situation where you had to remove your child from their residence to ensure their safety, we can help you put together your case to fight off the return of the children.
- What is child abduction?
- What is the Hague Convention?
- How is ‘habitual residence’ defined in child abduction cases?
- Are there any defences available under the Hague Convention to prevent the child from being returned?
- How can I prevent my child from being abducted by their other parent?
- What if my child is taken to a country that is a signatory to the Hague Convention?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
What is child abduction?
Parental child abduction is where one parent takes a child out of their country of habitual residence without the permission of the other person with parental responsibility for that child or the Courts.
It has to be stressed that having a residential order for the child, that is an order whereby the child habitually resides with you, does not mean you can relocate the child elsewhere in the UK or overseas without the consent and knowledge of the other parent. If you are the resident parent, you are allowed to take the child abroad for a period of up to one month, but anything longer than that will require either an agreement from the other parent or a court order.
If you are in a situation where you require to change your residence, within the UK or relocate overseas, speak to our solicitors for the best advise on how to proceed. If an agreement with the other parent cannot be achieved, you may need to apply for a Specific Issue Order.
What is the Hague Convention?
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (The Hague Convention) is a multilateral treaty that provides a swift method to return a child internationally abducted by a parent from one-member country to another.
The Hague Convention applies to children under 16 years. Its primary objective is to restore the custody arrangements made before the wrongful removal of the child. It does not provide jurisdiction for the Court to decide on child arrangement issues. Instead, it provides that the Court order the child returned to their home country if it is proved they were removed illegally.
If your child is taken to a country within the EU (with the exception of Denmark), ‘Brussels II bis’, a European Union Regulation will apply.
How is ‘habitual residence’ defined in child abduction cases?
The Hague Convention does not define ‘habitual residence’. It is not a technical term; it is simply the place where the child normally resides. The Court will look at the facts of the child’s life when deciding their habitual residence, such as where they go to school, where their doctor is based, whether they are involved in the community etc.
It is important to remember that time is of absolute essence in child abduction cases, specifically because of ‘habitual residence’ concept. If the child had ‘habitual residence’ in a country, but they were removed from it without parental consent, however, they spent a significant amount of time in a different country, they can possibly be considered as having acquired ‘habitual residence’ in that second country, which will mean that an order for return will not be possible to obtain.
For this reason, any action in respect of the return of a child that has been removed from their residence should be done as a matter of urgency.
Are there any defences available under the Hague Convention to prevent the child from being returned?
There are several defences available to the Hague Convention, including:
- The child objects to being returned.
- There is a risk of physical or mental harm to the child.
- The child was removed with consent.
- The person removing the child was not exercising any custody rights at the time of the alleged abduction.
The child’s habitual residence can also be challenged.
Our multi-lingual Solicitors will work with top barristers to build a strong defence if you are accused of child abduction. The Court will be focused on the child’s welfare only. Therefore it is critical that you receive experienced advice to have a chance of persuading the Court the child should not be returned to their country of habitual residence.
How can I prevent my child from being abducted by their other parent?
If you suspect your child is at risk of being abducted, contact us immediately. We can apply for a Child Arrangement Order or Prohibited Steps Order to prevent your child from being removed unless certain conditions are met. A Prohibited Steps Order can also prevent your child from being issued with a passport. In serious situations, we can apply to make the child a Ward of the Court.
Also, the police can put out a Port Alert if you suspect your child is going to be taken overseas without your permission in the next 48 hours. This will alert all points of departure from the UK to look out for your child and prevent them from leaving the country.
What if my child is taken to a country that is a signatory to the Hague Convention?
Many countries, including China, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Guyana are not subject to the Hague Convention and lack legal provisions which guard against international parental abduction. If your child has been taken to a non-Hague Convention country, our Solicitors will work with lawyers, authorities, and child welfare agencies in both the UK and the country the child has been taken to facilitate the child’s safe return.
We understand the emotional turmoil, fear, and stress surrounding child abduction. Rakhi and her team will ensure they are available to you and keep you fully informed at every stage of the process. We will hold your hand the entire way, ensuring your child is protected, and his or her welfare is paramount at all times.