International Child Abduction


We are coming up to the holiday season when lots of children are visiting relatives, parents and loved ones in different areas of the world, who normally live in the United Kingdom. One of the worries which most clients ask us during this period of time is, “if I am concerned that my child will not be brought back to England, what should I do?”

If you have concerns that the arrangements for your child to travel abroad are genuinely worrisome, then it is important that you seek immediate legal advice. It may be necessary for you to have an Order within the United Kingdom before the child is allowed to leave the United Kingdom, to ensure that all proper protective measures can be put in place, to give you confidence that Orders will be complied with in relation to the return of a child.

It may be that you already have an Order of the Court that you would like us to check. It may be that a recent dispute has occurred.  If this is prior to the child leaving the United Kingdom, it is important that you have some clarity on that and maybe have some written assurances from the family member or partner, or whoever you have an agreement with for the child to visit, giving you assurances that they will return to the United Kingdom.

It may also be important to know exactly where your child will be staying and the details of the child’s return flight. All of this is important, so that you can be confident that the date when the child is due to return is agreed by all the parties and therefore any breach of that is clearly visible and known.

If you are expecting a child to return from a holiday or a visit to family members in a different jurisdiction, depending on whether that jurisdiction is a Hague Convention Country, a European Country which is regulated by Brussels II or a Non-Hague Convention Country, this will determine what you do next.

The first thing you should do is to seek independent legal advice from an expert who is on the Panel of Child Abduction Lawyers and who is a member of CALA, so that you can gain very prescriptive expert advice as to the way forward.

If the Country is a Hague Convention or Brussels II Country, you will make an immediate referral to The Central Authority by email. Their address is  They will download a form and you will complete and submit that form to them to pursue within the jurisdiction where the child is still residing.

If the child has been retained by a family member in a Non-Hague Convention or Non-Brussels II Country then you must seek independent legal advice and you can apply for Wardship within this jurisdiction in order to then proceed by way of enforcement.

It is accepted that some Countries have protocols, in particular Anglo-Pakistani protocols, but it is important that you have a clear plan as to the expectations of how the adults are, a clear plan as to where the child is going and a clear plan of when the child will be returned.

For advice in terms of genuine concerns or worries in terms of the travel arrangements for your children and the risk posed in relation to those travel arrangements, then please contact our Managing Partner and expert in International Child Abduction, Donna Tilbrook by email or call 0114 2813636

Article by: Donna Tilbrook, Managing Partner and International Child Abduction Panel (ICACU)


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