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The Seriousness of Child Abduction

Separated and divorced parents with children can sometimes disagree about arrangements for their children. If they cannot find a compromise they may consult a solicitor to assist them in resolving matters. Ultimately a court may have to decide what is in the best interests of a child if their parents can’t agree.

In a few cases, however, a parent may decide to take matters into their own hands and disappear with the child. This is known as parental child abduction.

Last month there was significant coverage in the media about Rebecca Minnock, a mother who went on the run with her 3 year old son following a court’s decision that the child should live with his father. She subsequently handed herself in but not before her mother and her partner had been imprisoned for refusing to tell the court of her whereabouts.

Miss Minnock herself was told by a judge that she could have faced 28 days in prison as a result of her actions, but the boy’s father decided against any such punishment.

The case demonstrates how seriously the courts take breaches of their orders particularly when that involves taking a child away without the required permission. The judge hearing the case considered it so important that the public were made aware of how seriously such behaviour is viewed; he lifted reporting restrictions in respect of the case so that details of his judgement could be read by the public.

Miss Minnock was unhappy about the court ordering that her contact with her son should be supervised. Her actions will however have damaged her prospects of persuading a court that this restriction should be lifted.

Although trying to resolve matters with a former partner can be upsetting and frustrating it is important never to resort to disappearing with your child. Although this may give you a short period of time with them, the longer term consequences are likely to be devastating for you and your child. The likely result will be a considerable restriction on your ability to see your child. The impact on your child of being taken away from the other parent in this way could also be very damaging and confusing.

When the courts make decisions about arrangements for children, their paramount concern is the child’s welfare. The removal of a child in the way it was done by Miss Minnock would not be viewed as being in the best interests of the child and indeed would be considered harmful. The court would therefore have concerns about that parent’s ability to make decisions that are best for the child which will ultimately impact on the decisions of the court.

It is always best, if possible, to reach a decision surrounding your child’s care with the other parent. This may require compromise on both of your parts but usually results in the most successful arrangements.

If you can’t resolve matters directly you could consider mediation. This involves you meeting together with a trained mediator or who will assist you in trying to find a solution. If you do have to seek the help of the court, ensure you comply with any orders and seek guidance from your solicitor. If you are unhappy about any outcomes, they will be able to discuss with you how they can be challenged. Do not take matters into your own hands.

Vicki McLynn is a Principal Lawyer in Family Law at Slater and Gordon UK.

If you have any concerns regarding decisions about arrangements for your children, the Family Law team at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK offer an initial fixed fee consultation and can answer your queries. 

Slater and Gordon Lawyers offer specialist, clear and grounded advice to parents in matters relating to children. To speak with a Family Lawyer call freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.

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