Duncan Lewis

Family Law

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I Am a Divorcee With Custody for My Two Year Old Child. My Husband Took Her Away to Another Country Without Telling Me. What Can I Do?

Date: (16 September 2011)    |    

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Duncan Lewis:If your child has been taken abroad and this has been done without you having given your consent, or if you have reason to believe that the child has been abducted, the first step is to contact the local police.

There are three main types of child abduction. Straightforward abduction occurs when the child is taken abroad by one parent without the consent of the other parent, and under UK law this could be a criminal offence. When there has been a trip overseas by both parents with the child and that child has been kept there after the conclusion of the trip, this is referred to as wrongful retention. When there are clear indications that the child is at risk of being taken abroad, this is a case of threat of abduction.

The 1980 Hague Convention was signed by a number of countries and ensures that when a child is abducted by a citizen of one of the member states it will be returned home as quickly as possible, and issues will be decided in the child’s home country courts. Therefore, finding out if the country the child is currently in is a signatory of the 1980 Hague Convention is obviously another first step for the police and yourself. If this is the case then you need to contact the Central Authority for help, as the FCO will only get involved in such cases if asked to by the Central Authority.

It is somewhat more difficult when the country is not a Hague Convention signatory as you will have to get in touch with their internal court system to get your child returned. The Child Abduction Section of the FCO can assist with this.

The Child Abduction Section of the FCO helps in lots of ways with child abduction matters. They are there for general advice, can usually give practical information about travel and custody issues, and can liaise with overseas immigration services to track your child’s arrival in a country and point of entry. The relevant organisations in that country will also be contacted to see what progress has been made, and a visit by the consul will be set up once the child is located.

The FCO is limited in its options if the child has dual nationality, but the Child Abduction Service may still be able to help. However, the FCO cannot stage any rescue attempts, find the child if you have no idea where it has been taken to, interfere in any way with the other country’s legal system or pay for your accommodation, travel or legal costs if you decide to go there yourself.

Reunite is an organization that works closely with the Child Abduction Service and should also be approached for support and assistance. They can provide you with contact details for UK lawyers and family solicitors who can act for you; Duncan Lewis, for example, is frequently involved in this type of case.