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?
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.