Where a child is removed from the UK (or to the UK from another country) by one parent without the consent of the other parent, this may amount to child abduction. The impact of child abduction on left behind parents and the child can be traumatic.
International child abduction law provides for the speedy return of children to the country where they lived before their abduction. Countries which are signatories to the Hague Child Abduction Convention adhere to an international regime for the return of abducted children to their home states.
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Only in rare cases will children not be returned – but there are protections in place to prevent children being returned if doing so would place them at grave risk of harm or in intolerable circumstances.
If there is a risk that a child will be removed to another country parents need to be aware of the immediate steps which can be taken to prevent abduction.
Our child law experts have extensive experience of dealing with international child abduction.
Our most frequently asked questions:
How long will it take to resolve my international child abduction case?
Scotland is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the Hague Convention). This is an international agreement that provides a framework for the return of children who have been unlawfully removed to (or retained in) another signatory country. The Hague Convention requires signatory countries to act expeditiously, with the aim of resolving cases within six weeks if possible.
If the child has been taken from Scotland to a country that is a signatory to the Hague Convention, the process is streamlined. The left behind parent contacts the Central Authority in the country where the child normally lives (in Scotland that is the Scottish Government) which will contact the Central Authority in the country to which the child has been taken. The left behind parent will have a solicitor appointed to represent them in the country to which the child has been taken.
Where a child has been taken to a country that is not a signatory to the Hague Convention the situation is more difficult, as the measures for securing a child's return can vary significantly from country to country. The left behind parent requires to instruct a lawyer both in the country where the child normally resides and the country to which the child has been taken. It may also be necessary to involve the police if the child's whereabouts are unknown. Unless the child's return can be agreed, court proceedings will need to be raised in the country that the child has been taken to. An insight on child abduction from non-Hague Convention countries can be found here.
Regardless of whether the child has been abducted to a country that is a signatory to the Hague Convention or not, it is extremely important to take action immediately.
Which country will make the decision in my international child abduction case?
The Hague Convention focusses on a child's "habitual residence". A parent seeking return of the child will have to establish that the child was habitually resident in the country from which they have been removed at the time they were removed to (or retention in) the other country. Habitual residence is a matter of fact and is based on the stability of the child's life rather than simply the duration or permanence of their residence in a particular country. For example, a child can become habitually resident in a country relatively quicky if they have a settled and established life there. An insight on habitual residence in child abduction cases can be found here.
If a child is removed to a country that is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, the court in the country to which the child has been taken will make the decision as to whether or not the child should be returned. That decision made in accordance with the legal framework which exists in that country.
International Child Abduction key highlights
- We are instructed regularly by the Scottish Government to act for the parents of abducted children in applications for their return.
- Our team of child lawyers acts for private individuals defending applications for the return or relocation of a child.
- We have acted in child abduction cases which have been decided in the highest Courts in Scotland.
- We work collaboratively to ensure that we and adhere to the strict timescales imposed in child abduction cases.
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