If you are worried your partner is going to leave the country with your children, here are some vital tips on what to do.
Barely a day goes by without a story in the media about another family torn apart by parental child abduction. This occurs when one parent removes a child from the country where that child is living, to a different country without the permission of the other parent. The impact can be catastrophic.
Although there are international treaties and agreements in place, most notably the Hague Convention on Child Abduction, these are not always effective in securing a child’s return. There are still many countries who have not signed the Hague convention and the process is not always a quick one in many countries where they are members.
One of the greatest challenges when I am approached to advise a parent on a case of parental child abduction is locating the child. This can be extremely challenging while in the UK and when the country involved is vast in size.
When I am contacted by parents who are worried about child abduction I urge them to take preventative steps because locating a child who has been abducted by a parent can be a difficult challenge. In the area of parent child abduction prevention is infinitely better than cure.
It is important to do everything possible to ensure that the other parent is not able to leave the country. These are my top tips if you are worried that you partner might try to take your children out of the country with the intention of not returning.
- Keep Documents Safe - Ensure all important documents relating to your child such as their passport(s), birth certificate, residence documents are kept somewhere secure where they can’t be accessed by the other parent. Consider asking a friend or relative to look after them.
- Notify The Passport Office - If you think that your partner might try to secure a passport for your child contact the passport office to discuss whether you can lodge an objection. Plus, if your child may be eligible for a passport for another country contact the relevant embassy.
- Inform Other Carers - Notify any relevant authorities about your concerns. This might include teachers, nursery, child-minders or others providing care for your children such as a sports club, Guides or Scouts. Ask them to let you know urgently if the other parent attends to collect your child and not to release them into their care.
- Photographs - have a picture of your child available and one also of the other parent. If your child is abducted this will enable the police and border forces to stop them more easily.
What if you think they’ve already been taken?
If you believe your child has been abducted you should contact the police immediately. It is far better to attend at a police station if this is practical. You will be asked to give a full statement but must impress upon them the urgency of the situation. The police can issue an ‘All Ports Alert’ which is your best prospect of stopping your child leaving the country.
Be sure to take with you any evidence which supports your suspicions, for example, ticket bookings, bank withdrawals, or even a photo on your phone of an empty wardrobe.
If the police will not agree to act a child abduction solicitor can apply for an order for an All Ports Alert.
Parental child abduction can happen very quickly so it is important to act fast and take the right legal advice. We have a team of specialists in international children law who can provide advice if you are concerned your child has been taken or might be. You can contact us anytime 24/7 on 0800 916 9055 or contact us online.
Vicki McLynn is a senior family lawyer at Slater and Gordon in Manchester and London.