International Removal of Children – The Hague Convention

With the growth of cheap travel and technology and employment opportunities in a global market, an increasing number of separated parents consider relocating abroad and taking their children with them. However, if you wish to leave the UK to live elsewhere with your child, you must seek the consent of any person who has parental responsibility (usually the other parent). If the other parent does not agree to this you will need to apply to the court for permission to take your child abroad permanently.

Unlawful Removal – Child Abduction

Child abduction can be the unlawful removal of a child from one country to another or the wrongful retention of a child in another country, for example at the end of a holiday or contact time. For the removal or retention of a child to be ‘child abduction’ under the Hague Convention the following must be established:

  • The child has to be habitually resident in the country where they are taken from.
  • The move has to be in breach of the custody rights of someone else (i.e. parental responsibility)
  • The rights of custody have to be exercised at the time of the move.

The Hague Convention

The United Kingdom is a party to the Hague Convention which is an international convention under which legal procedures are agreed with a number of different countries to assist in the return of a child who has been abducted.

The convention requires other countries who are party to the convention to return children aged under 16 who are wrongfully removed away from their country of habitual residence. Courts can be required to order the return of a child who has been wrongfully removed so that courts in the children’s home country can decide on the future arrangements for them.

Grounds on which a return order can be removed

There are a number of grounds on which a return order can be refused. These include;

  • The court being satisfied that there is a grave risk that the child’s return would expose them to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.
  • The child objects to being returned and is mature enough to have their views taken into account.
  • The applicant was not actually exercising rights of custody at the time of removal or consented to the removal or retention.

How we can help

Summer holidays mark a time of heightened risk for child abduction, with international families arranging visits and parents arranging holidays. There are measures which can be taken to minimise the risk that children are unlawfully removed from the UK. If you have concerns that abduction could take place, it is essential to seek legal advice as soon as possible. Consulting our specialist lawyers in our Altrincham offices is a great first step, we can talk you through options, and help you to decide what the right decision for your situation is. Please contact us on 0845 548 1007 for a free 20 minute consultation.