Written by: Cally Worden
Having your child abducted is every parent’s nightmare. The chances of a stranger whisking your child away are, mercifully, very slim. But every day many children are taken illegally away from the care of one parent by the other or a member of the extended family and taken overseas without mutual consent. If you fear that this situation may apply to you, then read on for information on how to find help.
There are a number of different situations on which you may require guidance:
- Your child has been taken abroad without your consent, or against your wishes
- You are being denied contact with your child who is being kept overseas
- You are concerned that you child may be about to be abducted and taken overseas
Your rights in any of these scenarios will depend on many things, including:
- The country to which you child has been, or may be, taken
- Your legal status in respect of parental responsibility for the child
- Whether you are in the process of obtaining, or have already acquired, a court order relating to any of the following – custody and residence; guardianship; access and contact
If you have some degree of legal parental responsibility for your child, then your case is much stronger. If you are unsure of your situation then talk first to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, or contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for guidance.
If you are clear that you have a supported voice, then there are several important next steps you can take:
- Tell the Police – you will be asked to give a statement and when the threat of removal of your child from the country is actual (has happened) or considered imminent, they can pass your child’s name to all UK departure points. For children aged 16 or 17 a court order will be required
- Inform the Passport Office – it is possible in certain circumstances to request that passport services be restricted or refused for your child. A court order may be necessary. If the other parent is not a British national then the situation is more complicated. A letter requesting restricted passport privileges for your child written to the Embassy of their country may help, but the officials are under no obligation to agree
- Speak to Reunite – this UK charity offers a wealth of support to parents suffering from the fall out of international child abduction.