Has my child been abducted?

8 Dec 2021 | Kesha Pabari
child at airport

My ex-partner has taken our child abroad without my consent – what should I do?

In order for a parent to take their child abroad on holiday, or otherwise, they must have consent from all of those who hold Parental Responsibility for that child.

A mother is automatically granted parental responsibility. A father, on the other hand, can obtain parental responsibility via a number of ways, one of the most common being if they are stated on the child’s birth certificate. A father will also have parental responsibility if they are married to the mother at the time of the birth of the child.

If both parents have parental responsibility, which is very often the case, neither parent can remove a child from the jurisdiction of England and Wales without having consent from the other parent, or an Order from the Court giving them permission to do so.

A lives-with Order permits a parent, in whose favour the Order is made, to take a child out of the country for up to 28 days without needing to seek consent from the other parent. It is however good practice to notify the other parent of any travel plans in any event.

Removing a child from the jurisdiction without the above consent or order could be classified as child abduction.

There are three broad categories of child abduction:

  1. Abduction – this is where a child is taken out of the jurisdiction without the consent of all those with Parental Responsibility or permission from the Court;
  2. Wrongful retention – this is where a parent may consent to the child going abroad but only for a limited period of time, for example two weeks. A parent can be considered as wrongfully retaining a child if they refuse to return the child to the jurisdiction upon that agreed period ending; and
  3. Threat of abduction – this is where there is a risk that a child will be taken overseas without the appropriate consent.

Threat of abduction

It is extremely important to act as fast as possible if there is a real concern that your child is going to be removed from the jurisdiction without your consent.

If this threat is imminent, it is important to urgently notify the Police. Child Abduction is a criminal offence and the Police can try to help if they are notified in time.

It is also as equally as important to locate your child’s travel documentation. If your child’s passport is with the other parent, this should also be communicated to the Police. If you are living under the same roof as your ex-partner, and you are concerned about a potential abduction, it may be worth only you knowing where the child’s travel documentation is located.

It is also very important to instruct a specialist child abduction solicitor as quickly as possible. Depending on the facts, it may be necessary to make an urgent application for a Location Order and Prohibited Steps Order to prevent your ex-partner from being able to remove the child from the country.

Abduction/Wrongful retention

If you find yourself in a position whereby your ex-partner has already left the jurisdiction with your child, or alternatively, is refusing to return your child after an agreed holiday period, you need to contact the Central Authority in the country where your child is. It is very important to act as quickly as possible.

For example, if your child had been abducted to England, this would be ICACU (international child abduction and contact unit). ICACU would then be able to appoint you a specialist child abduction solicitor to help you.

If you are unsure about the location of your child, you should get in touch with a solicitor immediately.

To speak to a child abduction solicitor, call Kesha Pabari, or complete an online enquiry form.

Kesha specialises in dealing with cross-jurisdiction disputes, including relocation matters and representing the applicant and respondent in child abduction matters. Kesha also has experience in representing applicants and respondents seeking international contact through Article 21 of the Hague Convention.

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