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The Child Abduction Act 1985 makes it a criminal offence for your ex to take any of your children under the age of 16 out of this jurisdiction without your or the court’s permission. Child abduction is a serious criminal offence that can have serious legal repercussions. Whilst child abduction is a criminal offence in England, it is not a criminal offence in all countries.
If you suspect that your child has or is going to be abducted, it is natural to panic. However, the faster you act the more likely you are to achieve the swift return of your children, or more importantly, to prevent the child leaving this jurisdiction in the first place. As an international family law firm, we are used to dealing with people who are under a great deal of emotional stress, as well as time pressure. Our lawyers will be able to advise you on the quickest, calmest and most effective way to reunite you with your children. If your ex has abducted your child to a country that is a signatory to the Hague Convention 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, you will be able to make an urgent application in that country for them to be returned to England immediately. You can also apply to the English High Court for an order that your child is made a Ward of the Court, and through that, for orders that your child is returned to England and Wales.
Conversely, if your child has been abducted to England by your ex from a country that is a signatory to the Hague Convention 1980, you can apply to the English High Court for an order that they are immediately returned home.
Whilst there are perfectly innocent reasons why your ex might not yet have returned with your children from Britain, it could also be a real cause for concern. In the first instance, it will be necessary to contact your ex, the hotel or the last place they were known to be and any family or friends who might know of their whereabouts.
If you are unable to find out any further information, it is advisable to apply for a ‘location order’, which will enable the enforcement officer of the High Court known as the ‘Tipstaff’, once your children have been located, to attend the property where the children have been found and seize their passports to prevent your ex from removing the children again. A Port Alert can also be put in place that will be triggered if your ex tries to remove the children from the jurisdiction. In order to assist in locating the children if their whereabouts are unknown, you can apply to the High Court for orders (without notice to your ex) requiring third parties such as public authorities, airlines or banks to disclose any information they hold that may help to ascertain your children’s whereabouts. Tipstaff location orders may also be extended to relatives, friends or associates of your ex who can be compelled to provide oral evidence as to the location of your child. As a leading law firm, we are extremely familiar with making High Court applications and we will be able to ensure that your case is presented rapidly to the relevant High Court judge.
If there is a possibility that your ex has abducted your children, our team of highly experienced family lawyers will be able to assist you with a critical and rapid response.
If you have any reason to suspect that your ex has abducted your children it will be important to take immediate action. Child abduction cases are extremely time sensitive and the faster you act the more likely you are to ensure your children’s swift return.
Our lawyers are used to providing responses to very tight deadlines and in an emergency they will be able to prepare a response within a matter of hours. Our advice will differ according to the location of their abduction. If the children have been taken to a country that is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Abduction 1980, it will be easier to obtain the immediate return of your children. Signatories to this convention are obliged to return a child to the country in which they are habitually resident, unless one of the limited defences to that application applies. Unfortunately, if your child has been taken to a country that is not a party to the Hague Convention, facilitating their return can be much more difficult. Nevertheless, our dedicated team of lawyers will be able to draw on our network of internationally based family lawyers to provide you with rapid, jurisdiction-specific advice.
As experienced family lawyers, we know how overwhelming and stressful child abduction cases can be. We will be able to provide you with practical as well as legal support every step of the way. Our lawyers are always available to lend support and advice in what can be a period of high stress and anxiety.
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