Published on March 18, 2023

This area of law is complex and removing children from the jurisdiction without the consent of every person who has parental responsibility, or a court order, is child abduction. If you are concerned that your child is going to be abducted then you should consult a solicitor immediately.

What is Child Abduction?

Child abduction is essentially taking a child under 16 away from the person who usually cares for them (resident parent) and has parental responsibility for them (PR) without their consent.

International child abduction occurs when a person takes a child, or keeps a child, out of the country the child normally lives in without consent from everyone who has PR for the child, or an order of the court.

It is a criminal offence for a person connected to a child (such as parents, guardians, or anyone with PR for a child) to take or send the child out of the U.K without either consent from everyone who has PR for the child or permission from the court.  Anyone found guilty of child abduction can be sent to prison or fined or both.

What if I think my former partner is going to take the children away from me?

There are a number of reasons why you may have concerns that your children will be removed from the jurisdiction and practically, if you have these concerns, you should not allow your former partner to remove your children from your care at all, and you must not provide the children’s passports, until you have had legal advice or have made an application to the court.

Anyone found guilty of child abduction can be sent to prison or fined or both.

If you have these concerns, you can apply to the family court for a prohibited steps Order (PSO). A PSO can stop someone removing children from your care, or from the jurisdiction without your permission. You can make this application without telling your former partner if you fear that your former partner may remove the children if he or she learns of your application before it is determined. This is called without notice. Your former partner will then be informed of the application only after the first hearing, and there will be a further hearing which you both attend for the court to decide whether the PSO which was ordered at the first hearing should continue.

If you are making the application on a without notice basis, you will need to explain your reasons for doing so. In an emergency situation, the court can make other directions when a prohibited steps Order is made such as a port alert to prevent the children from leaving the country. This means that the police will flag the child’s name at all UK airports and points of departure or an order requiring a UK passport to be surrendered which can also prevent the Passport Service from issuing a passport or travel document. However these actions usually require proof that the children are likely to be removed from the UK within the next 24 or 48 hours.

Signposting to additional support and relevant organisations can be found in this link.

Postscript. Issues arising out of divorce or separation can often prove stressful for the couple and other family members. This article written by Dylan Watkins GP offers a useful overview for those who may be struggling.

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Passports And Holidays

Before you plan a holiday with your children make sure you know what you need to do. Being stopped at passport control and asked to prove your child’s identity, or that you have parental responsibility and therefore the right to take them abroad, is far from uncommon. This happens because of child protection issues. The idea is to safeguard against child abduction and child smuggling. Controls are getting tighter, and checks more frequent. Bringing extra documents might seem over the top, but will ensure that you don’t face any difficulty. Most parents would generally agree that it is in their child’s best interest to be able to have the opportunity to enjoy a holiday abroad. However, when parents separate and emotions are running high people often act out of character and place their own needs before that of the child. However...

What If Your Ex-partner Has Booked A Holiday Abroad Without Consulting You?

It is a criminal offence to take a child out of the UK without the consent of everybody with parental responsibility unless the court has given permission. However, if an order has been made that a child is to live with a person, that person may take that child out of the UK for up to a month at a time.

You've Booked A Holiday And Your Ex-partner Is Refusing To Hand Over The Passport

If the holiday has already been booked and your ex-partner is refusing to hand the passport over then you would have to make an urgent application for the release of the passport. Provided you can show that there is no reason why the child should not be able to accompany you on the holiday and that you plan to return to the country after the holiday there should not be any issue with securing the order in your favour. You will find a number of resources on this hub that will give you the information and advice you need on passports and holidays.

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