CHILD ABDUCTION WHAT TO DO WHEN A CHILD IS ABDUCTED FROM THIS COUNTRY Hague Convention countries Any person with

parental responsibility can apply for the return of the child if the country from where the child has been taken is party to the Hague Convention. When receiving an application for a summary return of the child, the country from where the child has been removed must apply the Hague Convention and return the child – unless the defences under Article 13 have been successfully made. Once a child has been taken, the parent who wants the child returning must contact the UK Central Authority (The International Child Abduction and Contact Unit, 81 Chancery Lane, London, WC2A 1DD) with the following information: • • Information concerning the identity of the applicant, the child and the person alleged to have removed or retained the child The date of birth of the child The grounds for the application All information available relating to the whereabouts of the child and the identity of the person who the child is presumed to be with. The UK Central Authority will then send a form to the applicant to complete for further information. The form must be sent back along with copies of photographs of the missing child and the person with whom the child is currently with, and any other information that the applicant deems relevant. The applicant must also send copies of any orders relating to the children.


Consequently, the UK Central Authority will contact the equivalent authority in the relevant country. It should provide the foreign authority with the application documents and a certificate or statement regarding the case. All documents must be translated into the official language of the country where the child has been taken. The Central Authority in the relevant country will then instruct a solicitor to apply to the relevant court. Remember, if the child has been out of the country for more than 12 months and is now settled in the new country, it is unlikely that the child will be ordered to return. If the country is a European country, Brussels II also needs to be considered. The same procedure as is explained above is employed in these countries, however the court is also required to hear the views of the child, unless they are too young or immature. Furthermore, even if the ‘grave risk’ defence has been made, there is a wider discretion on the court to return the child. However, this will of course depend on the circumstances. There is no fee to apply to the UK Central Authority, and, in most circumstances, legal aid would be available depending on the country where the child has been taken to. You can see a list of Hague Convention countries here: http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php? act=conventions.publications&dtid=42&cid=24

Non-Hague Convention countries If the child has been taken to a non-Hague Convention or non-European Union country, the applicant should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Old Admiralty Building, The Mall, London, SW1A 2PA). The Foreign and Commonwealth Office can help provide a list of lawyers in the country where the child has been taken and who speak English. It can

also approach the authorities in that country for help in finding the child and obtain a welfare report once the child has been found. Afterwards, it will draw the local authorities to the existence of any court order in relation to the child (with the court’s consent) and help to establish communication between the parents and the children. However, it cannot recover the child, engage in illegal attempts to get the child back, pay for legal costs in the country where the child has been taken, fund airfare or obtain visas for the applicant. If you find yourself in this situation, it would also be advisable to speak to Reunite International Child Abduction Centre, on 0116 2556 234. It is likely that if the applicant cannot get the other parent to agree to return the child, an application needs to be made to the country where the child is now. The applicant should take legal advice from a local lawyer in that country. However, the country will not order the return of the child if it is contrary to their own law. For more information, go to the website of The International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers: http://www.iaml.org/ The applicant should immediately apply for custody and return in the foreign country. It is not necessary to obtain a residence order in this country and even if they do, it may not be recognised in the foreign country. However, if there is already an order in force, then the applicant could take proceedings for contempt of court and an order for sequestration. Child abduction is a criminal offence, therefore the applicant could also consider seeking extradition of the other parent who has taken the child. In addition, the applicant should consider instigating wardship proceedings in the High Court. This would invite the foreign judiciary and authorities to assist in facilitating the return of the child. However, their assistance depends upon the country itself and the recognition of English orders. If you do not know where the child has been taken and whether they have been taken out of the country, contact the police to inform them of the situation and request a port alert. It’s also

important that you take legal advice and issue an application for a Prohibited Steps Order and Interim Residence. For more information, please contact Jennifer Hollyer, Solicitor at Stowe Family Law on 01423 532600 or Jennifer.Hollyer@stowefamilylaw.co.uk. Alternatively, contact:

Stowe Family Law, Old Court House, Raglan Street, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG1 1LT

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