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Family Law Solicitor Cara Nuttall discusses Parental Child Abduction

Parental Child Abduction features in various headlines today, demonstrating the wide range of circumstances in which it can take place.Many people will have seen the reports of the urgent search for 7 year old Neon Roberts, after his mother abducted him from home to a town some 160 miles away, in order to avoid him being given urgent medical treatment, with which she does not agree. It is reported that Neon's parents have been involved in a legal battle in recent days as to whether he should receive life-saving cancer treatment. Ms Roberts practices alternative therapies and did not agree to Neon receiving conventional treatment. The seriousness of Neon's condition, prompted the High Court to take the unusual step of releasing Neon's details, in the hope he could be found in time for treatment to begin. It is reported that a further hearing is scheduled to take place tomorrow at which the decision will be made as to whether or not Neon should receive radiotherapy.

As against the unusual circumstances of Neon's case, are reports of a more traditional example of parental abduction featuring 5 year old Erin Chafin.  Erin’s father was in the US Army when he married her Scottish mother. When theyDivorced, there was an argument between them as to whether Erin was resident in Scotland, or in the US, with Erin's mother alleging that her father had wrongly retained her in the US, rather than allowing her to return to Scotland, amounting to child abduction. The American court agreed, and made orders which permitted Erin to return to Scotland.Erin's father then made further applications in the US courts seeking Orders regarding Custody andContact, but was told that such matters could only be dealt with by the courts in Scotland. He seeks to override that decision in order to allow the American courts to retain jurisdiction over Erin's future. A decision of the US Supreme Court is expected early next year.

The two cases highlight the ways in which parental abduction can occur, whether internally in the UK, or internationally and how whilst it is often international families who are involved, this is not always the case. The cases also highlight the wide ranging powers the courts have in such situations, and the importance of obtaining urgent legal advice.

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