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Child abduction is where your child is taken abroad without your consent or without the consent of the court. It could also occur if your child is taken abroad with your consent, on holiday for instance, but not returned at the end of the agreed period.

If you believe your child may be taken abroad without your consent

It’s essential that you act quickly and if possible prevent the abduction. An application to the court can be made to prevent the removal of your child.

You’ll find invaluable information and a child abduction prevention guide on the charity website, Reunite International.

If your child has been abducted

Following your child’s abduction, you should immediately do the following:

  • Seek specialist legal advice
  • Collate useful material that your legal advisers or the relevant authorities are likely to need, both in relation to the child(ren) and the suspected abductor, such as:
    • recent photographs or a detailed physical description (including any distinguishing features), or both
    • any ongoing medical conditions, for which treatment is required
    • full name, date and place of births
    • passport numbers and date of issue (if known)
    • flight details or other itinerary for any known travel plans
    • full names and contact details of friends, family members or other persons in the UK and abroad who may be able to provide details of the location of the child(ren)
    • any existing court orders in force in relation to the child(ren)
  • Seek advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and any relevant embassy, high commission or consulate, in particular if the abduction is to a non-Hague Convention country. Here is a list of Hague Convention countries. The FCO should provide advice on the options available to you. In respect of a non-Hague Convention country, starting legal proceedings in the courts of the country concerned may be your only option if you cannot come to an agreement with the person who has abducted your child
  • If your child(ren) are being retained in a country that is a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention, contact the English central authority, namely the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit (ICACU). The ICACU is responsible for administering the 1980 Hague Convention. You will need to complete an application form to request the return of the child(ren) under 1980 Hague Convention. The ICACU will process the application, send it to their counterpart central authority abroad and provide practical advice on steps to take to recover children who have been wrongfully removed to and from England and Wales
  • Consider with your legal adviser, applying for declaratory and other orders at the High Court, in particular a declaration that the child is habitually resident in England and Wales
  • Inform the police. If your child has been taken abroad, it may be possible to pursue extradition of the offender from the relevant country

Contact Reunite International which is a UK charity, offering support and information about international parental child abduction. Reunite International operates a telephone advice line and offers a mediation service. This can be helpful, especially where children have been abducted to a country that is not a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention.

International Family Law specialists

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