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Family Law Solicitor Cara Nuttall discusses Child Abduction

A High Court case reported in the News today shows a very common situation whereby international families can find themselves in 2-3 year long court battles when a Relationship Breakdown occurs, as each partner fights to live in their home country and keep their children there. 

Many people associate Child Abduction with children being removed from their primary carer, however increasingly 'abductors' are in fact primary carers of the children, who want to return to their country of origin when a relationship fails.

The case reported today is a classic example of such a case. When their marriage failed, the Australian mother fled back to her family in Australia, taking the couple's 2 young Children with her. The Father then pursued child abduction proceedings in Australia. Following more than a year of litigation, the Mother and children were ordered to return to England, for the court here to give consideration as to the appropriate long-term arrangements for the children. After several further months of uncertainty, the English court has now granted the Mother permission to live in Australia with the children permanently, but has noted the crippling financial and emotional impact the last 2-3 years of litigation has had upon the family.

The pattern of consecutive litigation in 2 countries is extremely common in such situations and demonstrates the importance of getting legal advice prior to moving children across international boundaries. Whilst many people are reluctant to take the risk of having their plans stopped, it is important to understand that given the strength of international agreements in place, it is rarely the case that a parent can successfully achieve a fait accompli. Moving a child in such a manner is far more likely to end in years of expensive litigation and uncertainty, all of which could have been short-circuited by going through the correct process in the first place. Worse still, such behaviour can fatally damage an otherwise strong case to get the court's permission for such a move and can, ironically, sometimes be the one thing which stops a parent from being allowed to go home after all.