What is International Child Abduction?
The term International Child Abduction, in a legal context, means one parent taking (or retaining) a child, to a foreign country without the consent of their other parent or the permission of the Court.
It is becoming more common due to cheap international travel, mass immigration leading to higher numbers of trans-national relationships and subsequent separations.
It is considered by psychologists to be a form of child abuse. It violates children’s rights and can cause severe emotional trauma to the child and family left behind.
ICA and the Law
There are several key points to prove, to establish if abduction has taken place:
• Is the child involved under 16?
• Has the child been removed from the country where they usually live or is he being wrongfully retained in another country?
• Is the removal or retention in breach of the left behind parent’s rights of custody?
• Is the left behind parent exercising those rights of custody at the time the removal or retention took place?
• was the child habitually resident in the country they were taken from?
If all of those conditions are met, the left behind parent may instruct a lawyer to start urgent child abduction proceedings to secure the child’s swift return. Those proceedings will take place in the country the child has been taken to. Abduction cases move very quickly and must be completed within 6 weeks of an application being issued.
There are several defences that can be raised when a person is accused of child abduction. they are:
• The child is over 16
• The child would be placed in an intolerable situation or be at risk of grave harm if returned
• The child is now settled in the new country and objects to being returned
• The child did not usually live in the state requesting the return of the child
• The left behind parent consented or did not oppose the removal or retention of the child
• The left behind parent has no rights of custody
ICA to the UK
If a child has been brought to the UK by either parent, without the other parent’s consent or legal authority, a lawyer can make an urgent application to the English courts for the prompt return of the child to his or her home country.
Legal Aid is available for all child abductions cases.
There are certain key questions to ask which may indicate that a child may have been abducted into the UK.
• Has the child recently come here from abroad?
• Where have they come from?
• Is the parent intending to stay here?
• Does the left behind parent know they are here?
• Has the child not returned from a holiday or has the child been abducted?
ICA from the UK
If a parent has agreed for their child to go abroad say for a holiday but there are concerns the child may not be brought back, the advice to the left behind parent is to:
1. Keep a copy of the child’s passport
2. Make sure you have their birth certificate
3. Ensure you have details of the flights, confirmed by the other parent
4. Ensure you have confirmation of the accommodation they are staying at
5. Ensure you have a contact number both mobile and the number at the accommodation
6. If staying with family abroad, ensure you have their address and contact phone number
7. Make sure you send an email to the other parent confirming that you agree for the child to go, but that it is only for a holiday and that you do not consent for the child to live in that country
8. Ensure you make it clear in the email when you expect the child to be returned to you ie the date.
9. If you haven’t access to email then write it down and you and the other parent should sign it
How Can We Help?
Sills & Betteridge have helped many parents to be successfully reunited with their children following abduction. If you believe a child has been abducted, please urge whichever parent you are involved with to speak to Resolution Accredited Specialist Chrystal Theofanous on the contact details below for legal advice.
Chrystal can advise the left behind parent or the parent being accused of child abduction, whether they are based in the UK or oversees. She is also on the International Child Abduction Contact Unit panel which means she is one of only 40 solicitors in the county accredited in this complex area of law. Only solicitors accredited in International Child Abduction can act for parents overseas whose children have been abducted or retained in the UK.
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