What To Do If a Child is Abducted by a Parent?
Child abduction is a serious crime and can be a very traumatic experience for a child. Parental abductions are most often the result of ongoing family conflicts. Since every family dynamic is different, every parental abduction case is different.
There are legal processes in place to bring the abducted children home to their country of residence safely, but how long it takes depends on the circumstances of the case and whether the child’s location can be traced.
This article details everything you need to know about parental abduction, legal remedies available, and federal and international laws that come into play in such cases. Let’s dive right in!
What is Parental Abduction?
Parental Abduction occurs when a parent of a child takes them out of their country of habitual residence without the consent of the other parent, or those with parental responsibility.
This normally happens after a separation or divorce by the parent who has not been awarded the legal custody of the child. The rapid increase in cross-cultural marriages, higher divorce rates, and modifications in the immigration laws are the major reasons that led to the rise in international child abduction.
What Does the UK Law Say about Parental Abduction?
Under the Child Abduction Act of 1984, it is a serious criminal offense for a parent or anyone related to the child to take them out of the UK for more than 28 days without the permission of the other parent, anyone who has parental responsibility, or a person with a residence order for the child.
The people who can give permission would be:
· The mother
· The father (If he has been granted a parental responsibility)
· A guardian or a special guardian appointed by the court
· Anyone with Residence Order for the Child
· Holder of residence order under the Child Arrangement Order
· Local Authority, if the child is under the care
· Court if the child is detained or ward of a Court
What to Do if your Child is Abducted?
The few hours are the most critical on child abduction cases, so it’s really important to take immediate action. Though every parental abduction case is unique, here are some basic steps you must take immediately if your child is abducted:
Inform your local police station and file a missing person report.
You’ll be asked to provide the recent picture of your child, their height, weight, eye color, what the child was wearing, and the last whereabouts of the child.
The police will use The Child Rescue Alert Scheme to send a warning to the local radio and television stations and arrest anyone who’s suspected of abducting a child and they can disseminate the child’s name to all UK points of departure through the Police National Computer.
You can also ask the police to enter your child’s case into the National Crime and Information Center (NCIC), an electronic clearinghouse of data that can be accessed by virtually any criminal justice agency to get support in your search.
Gather all the legal documents you may have concerned the abductor such as custody orders, divorce papers, co-parenting plans, visitation agreements, and a recent photo of the abductor.
What are Legal Remedies Available If the Child has been Abducted from the UK to another country?
If a child has been abducted from the UK, two international Conventions can provide complete assistance in tracing and returning the child:
· The Hague Convention
· The European Convention
What is the Hague Convention?
The 1980 Hague Convention facilitates the safe return of the child, who has been unlawfully removed or abducted in a contracting state. The convention ensures that the child arrangement orders under the law of one contracting state or country are equally respected and implemented in other contracting states or countries.
A parent can apply to the Central Authority where the child is usually resident or to the Central Authority of another contracting state to request assistance in securing the child’s safe return. However, to rely on the Hague Convention, the child must be under 16.
What is the European Convention?
The European Convention on Human Rights protects the human rights of people in 47 member
states that belong to the Council of Europe, including the UK. The Council of Europe protects human rights and prohibits unfair practices. It binds all the contracting states into working together for the safe return of the abducted child to the country of his/her residence.
If the child has been taken to a country that is not a member of the joined state or either convention, it is more difficult to have the child return.
What Happens if the Child has been abducted to a country which is not a signatory to the Hague Conventions?
If your child has been abducted to a non-Convention country, where there is no network of authorities to ensure the safe return of the child, then the parent will either have to reach an agreement with the other who has abducted the child or initiate legal proceedings in the country where the child has been abducted to. The Child Abduction Unit can give advice and provide help to deal with authorities abroad.
How to Prevent Parental Abduction?
Parental Abduction does not occur with adverse. If a parent has the slightest doubt that their child will be taken out of the country without their consent. It will be wise to consider the following preventions:
I. Alert your local police station and make a detailed statement about your concerns.
II. If a parent fears that there’s a risk of abduction, he or she can apply for:
A Prohibited Steps Order to prevent the removal of the child from the UK
A Specific Issue Order to settle the dispute about whether the child is allowed to leave the UK.
A Child Arrangement Order to determine with whom the child should live.
In specific circumstances, a parent may also apply to the High Court to make the child a ward of court. This step will immediately prevent the child from being taken out of the country, and any such step will be contempt by the court.
III. Contact HM Passport Office and ask them to surrender a passport or ask them not to issue a passport of the child. You’ll need to provide the court order, but not necessarily if you’re an unmarried mother trying to file an objection.
What to Do If I Don’t Know where my child has been taken?
If you’re unsure about where your child has been taken, the court can order the family members, or friends of the abductor to reveal where your child is and can punish someone who does not give the correct information with a heavy fine or imprisonment.
In some cases, the parent can also ask the court to make the child a ward of court. It gives the court parental responsibility for your child and empowers them to make any order they believe is in the child’s best interest. This is the best option when you have zero clue about your child’s whereabouts.
Can I Get a Legal Aid for Parental Abduction?
Yes, legal aid is available for parents or anyone with parental responsibility for the child who has been abducted or is at the risk of being abducted to bear your legal costs including:
· A secure return of a child who has been illegally removed within the UK.
· Prevent the child’s illegally removal from the UK.
· Secure the safe return of a child who has been illegally taken abroad from the UK.
You can contract ICACU, or Reunite International, charitable organization to get more details.
How long Can I take my child out of the UK without breaking the law?
If you have a Child Arrangement Order (residence) order in place under the Child Arrangements Order, then you can take the child out of the UK for up to 28 days without the consent of then another parent or anyone with parental responsibility. But if you intend to go on a holiday for longer than 28 days, then you must seek the consent of the other parent before going. For more information, read this article on taking a child on holiday without the permission of the other parent.
How Can We Help?
At Court Help Ltd, we provide support and assistance with an impending or expected Parental abduction. We are a Law paralegal firm that specializes in child custody and family laws and provides immaculate service at half the cost of an average solicitor.
Our team of paralegals will help you in filing the Child Abduction Case, and coordinate efforts with law enforcement agencies so you don’t have to. We’ll be available every step of your way to answer your queries, and give appropriate advice on the options available to you.
Call us now at 073-7575-7510, drop an email at email@example.com or send a message through our website, for an initial free consultation.