What is Parental Child Abduction?
Parental Child Abduction occurs when one parent takes their child abroad or relocates to a new area without the permission or acknowledgement of the other parent.
This commonly occurs following a divorce or separation where the parent has not been given custody of the child and so they attempt to abduct the child and flee the area or country.
Is child abduction a criminal offence?
The Child Abduction Act 1984 created a criminal offence of child abduction. It is a criminal offence to take or send a child out of the UK without the consent of all people with parental responsibility or permission of the court.
What to do if your child has been abducted
If a child has been abducted but remains in this country, you need to apply for a court order to ensure that the child is located and returned home.
If a child has already been taken out of the country, the remedy depends on the country where the child is currently staying. If the country is a member of the Hague Convention, there is a clear procedure about how to apply for the child to be returned home.
The following steps should be taken immediately on learning of a child abduction or on suspecting child abduction:
- Ask the police to issue a “port alert” where a note can be put on to the police national computer to warn port authorities at airports, seaports and the like.
- Apply to the court for a range of orders including child arrangements/prohibited steps orders for disclosure of information concerning a child or the delivery up of a child.
- Notify the child’s school and any other third-party carer of your concerns.
- Control the whereabouts of the child’s passport. You can lodge this with your solicitor or secure a court order that the passport is surrendered.
A parent with a Child Arrangements Order confirming that a child lives with them is allowed to take the child out of the country for up to 28 days without the consent of the other parent. This is not advised as it is reasonable to notify the other parent of their plans.
If one parent wishes to relocate with a child within the UK or abroad and the parents cannot agree, a court application will be needed.
The court will have regard to various factors, such as:
- Child’s best interest: Were the proposals to move in the child’s best interest?
- Reasons for relocating: What are the reasons for the move? Is there a genuine reason for the move, or is it a move designed to thwart contact arrangements between the child and the other parent?
- Child’s education: Proposals for the child’s education, including details of the type of school, its facilities, whether they have space available, whether proper enquiries have been made at the selected school will be considered.
- Accommodation: Proposals about the accommodation selected, with photographs and details about the surrounding area.
- Location: If relocating abroad, a description about the foreign country, and an analysis of any cultural differences in existence, and the impact this might have on the child.
- Flights: Practical information about flight schedules and flight cost and proposals for who pays for flights.
- Parental contact: How will the child keep in touch with the parent on a regular basis? For example, by Skype, FaceTime, Facebook, telephone or Email?
- Impact of relocation: How will the proposals affect the child and the absent parent? The more contact a child has, the greater the impact upon the child.
- Risk of refusal or distress: If the court refused the application, how would this impact upon the parent who wished to move? If that parent were to be extremely distressed at the prospect of a refusal, which would lead to him/her being isolated and having no support network, for example, this might have a detrimental impact upon the child.
The court would need to consider whether the child would be better off moving and being cared for by a parent who is happier and has more of a support network when they move.
A parent who wishes to relocate with their child must formulate detailed and comprehensive proposals if the application is to stand any chance of being considered favourably by the court.