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What is international Parental Child Abduction?

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

Child abduction is often mistaken with the image of children being removed by strangers.

This is known as ‘wrongful abduction’. Another way that a child be can be abducted is by way of wrongfully retaining a child abroad during an overseas trip, for example after a short holiday and this is known as ‘wrongful retention.

Statistics show that child abduction cases are continuously rising and have more than doubled over since 2013/2014. There were 1,268 child abduction cases recorded by the police in England and Wales in 2018/19 according to Action Against Abduction organisation.


Under the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1984 (CA 1984), it is a criminal offence if a person takes or sends a child out of the United Kingdom without the appropriate consent. Appropriate consent means the consent of the child’s mother, father (if he has parental responsibility for the child), guardian, the person named in the child arrangements order, person who has custody of the child or the leave of the court (s.3 CA 1984).


Preventing child abduction

Child abduction can be extremely stressful and usually requires an urgent action to prevent the child from travelling abroad. There are a number of ways that a person can prevent child abduction, but it is important to talk to a specialist to discuss all the legal and practical steps to take if there is a risk of child abduction.

Firstly, the practical steps that an individual can take can include ensuring that the child’s passport has been kept in a safe place, keep a record of the possible abductor; for example their photo, family details and their addresses. However, this is not always possible and there are circumstances where you may have to take legal action.

If there is an imminent risk of the child abduction in the next 48 hours, an individual or their solicitor can issue a port alert by contacting the police who work with the immigration authorities to prevent the removal of the child.

Alternatively, the individual concerned can make an application before the court to enforce the child arrangement order where the court can make an order asking the police or an officer to return the child to the person concerned, i.e. the person making the application. Other court applications include an application for a prohibited steps order to prevent the other person from removing the child from the United Kingdom or for a specific issues order where the court can ask the other person to hand over passports to the court or their solicitor.

Recovering a child from abroad

If a child has been taken out of the United Kingdom wrongfully, the person with the parental responsibility can contact the police and the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit (ICACU). The contact details and the process can be found on the government website

Whether or not the child can be recovered from another country depends on the country that they have been taken to. The United Kingdom is a member of the 1980 Hague Convention and the European Regulation. The 1980 Hague Convention is an agreement between countries which allows the child to be returned to his country of residence, i.e. where he was abducted from. The list of countries who have signed the 1980 Hague Convention can be found on The European Regulation is a similar agreement, commonly known as the Brussels II Regulation, between the member states of the European Union. Both pieces of legislation allow the courts in other countries to make an order to return the child back to his country of residence.

If a child has been abducted to a country which has not signed to the Hague Convention and is not a member of the European Union, it may be more challenging to make bring the child back but the lawyers and courts can usually work together in both countries to make arrangements for the child to be returned home.

Understanding International Child Abduction: Risks and Safeguards

Introduction to Blog: Transnational child abduction is a severe problem affecting tens of thousands of families worldwide. It occurs when one parent takes their child out of the nation without the approval or knowledge of the other parent, frequently with terrible results for the child and their family. To further comprehend this issue, its prevalence, causes, and potential safeguards, such as The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, should be discussed.

The International Child Abduction Phenomenon

In recent years, international child kidnapping has become an expanding global concern. According to UNICEF's 2018 study, an estimated 1,2 million international abductions occur annually around the world. When parents believe that leaving the country will give them and their children with greater prospects, or when they fear that remaining in their own country will put their children at risk of abuse or exploitation, they typically turn to kidnapping. Despite their genuine intentions, these parents are frequently unaware of the long-term psychological repercussions that international child kidnapping can have on their children.

Agreement of The Hague on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Almost 80 nations joined The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in 1980 in an effort to combat international child abduction and protect children who have been taken abroad by one parent without authorization from the other parent. Its primary goals are to enable the timely repatriation of kidnapped children and to guarantee access rights for left-behind parents to their children overseas. In accordance with this convention, members are required to establish appropriate methods for handling cases involving international parental kidnapping. This includes establishing protocols for locating abducted children and allowing communication between parents and their children overseas.

The procedure of enforcing this agreement is complicated due to the fact that participating countries may have differing laws regarding custody rights or variable levels of enforcement power. In addition, several nations still do not recognise the obligations contained in this treaty, which further complicates issues for families attempting to locate kidnapped children overseas or seeking access rights for parents left behind.

Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction: The Hague Convention

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a treaty that tries to prevent the negative impacts of international child abduction and retention. More than one hundred countries, including the United Kingdom, have ratified the pact since it was signed in 1980.

If a child is illegally taken or kept in a nation other than their habitual residence, the Convention lays out a legal framework for their expedited return. The Treaty also guarantees that the rights of parents and guardians to custody and access are protected in both countries.

What to do if a child is abducted by the other parent? and The Proper Course of Action to Take in the Event of a Child Abduction

Contact the UK Central Authorities immediately if you suspect your child has been kidnapped or is being held in another country. If your kid has been taken abroad without your consent, the UK Central Authority, which deals with such matters, may be able to help you in legal and other ways.

The Central Authority may bring in legal action to seek your child's speedy return by communicating with the Central Authority of the nation where your child is thought to be, There are many cross-border arrangements that may come in action depending on the nations involved. With the child's best interests in mind (as per Child Act 1989 in England for example), the court will make a determination.

How to reduce the Risk of Abduction Abroad for Children

Sadly Child Abductions across international borders are extremely painful for both the kidnapped child and the parent who is left behind. There are a number of things you can do, such as:

  1. Creating a solid plan for child custody

  2. Having a judge rule on custody and visitation issues.

  3. Make sure that you have the child's passport in your possession or the possession of someone else you trust.

  4. Sharing this information with the child's school and doctors or other care providers like nursery is important.

The best course of action is to consult with a lawyer who specialises in family law or consider contacting us on 07375757510 or emailing


Abducting a child across international borders is a crime that can have devastating effects on both the kidnapped child and the parent who is left behind. There is a legal framework in place thanks to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction for the speedy return of children who have been illegally removed or kept in another country. Contact the UK Central Authority if you or a loved one suspects that your child has been kidnapped or is being held against your will. Taking precautions can protect your child from harm and lower the likelihood of abduction.


International child abduction can be a painful event with long-lasting consequences for both parties involved, especially for the kidnapped child, who may never feel completely safe again after being forcibly removed from their native country. Raising awareness about this phenomenon is essential if we are to take meaningful steps towards improving our response mechanisms and safeguarding affected families across international borders.

The Hague Convention provides an important framework for achieving these objectives, but ultimately greater efforts are required to make progress in this field. Understanding the risks associated with international relocation is crucial to avoiding international kidnappings from occurring in the first place. Audience: Parents contemplating an international relocation with minor children; policymakers; legal professionals working in family law; social workers; human rights advocates and researchers examining global mobility trends and immigration policy implications pertaining to family law issues across borders.

Advice and support

International child abduction is a complicated area of law and often requires a specialist to deal with such cases. If your child has been abducted, you may be eligible for public funding, known as legal aid to meet your legal costs. Further information can be found by contacting ICACU, charitable organisations such as Reunite International or by visiting information page.

Please note this article is NOT legal advise.

If you are living in England & Wales and have suufered domestic abuse you may want to read on of our following articles:

If you need assistance in regards to an impending/expected abduction so call us on 073757575 23 or email us at or reach us through the Contact Page


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