International Child Abduction and the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (1980)

The issue of Child Abduction has become an ever more increasing worry for families where one parent lives abroad in recent times. As a result England and Wales have entered into numerous agreements to safeguard the rights of the non-abducting parent and the children. These have been formalised into what are known as The Hague Convention, the European Convention and the Revised Brussels II Regulation. All three of these are based on a system of Central Authorities which handle all Child Abduction cases under these three systems. The Central Authority for England and Wales is located in the Office of the Official Solicitor and Public Trustee and is called the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit (ICACU).

The area of Child Abduction is too vast for the remit of this article and therefore I shall concentrate solely on the practical aspects of The Hague Convention and the basic steps a parent who faces the prospect of their child being abducted needs to arm themselves with. A list of the signatories to the Hague Convention can be found at

Child Abduction cases come in 2 different types which vary procedurally and can involve either a child removed from England & Wales or a child removed from another country party to the Convention to England & Wales.

Incoming cases

A parent or an individual who holds rights of custody (the right to parent that child in the country the child has been removed from, such as a grandparent with Residence in England and Wales) can make an application for the return of the child directly to the Central Authority of the country in which the child was previously located. This application is then forwarded to the Central Authority of England & Wales who will then assess and forward the application to one of a select few specialist solicitors who will then represent the applicant parent throughout the proceedings.

The solicitor will then attend the High Court in London to obtain orders to protect the child immediately after the proceedings start and if necessary to locate the children's whereabouts if they are unknown.

Parents concerned with the costs of such an application can put their minds at ease in the knowledge that non-means tested (free) legal aid is available to applicants seeking the return of a child under the Hague Convention. Therefore, there will be no costs involved for the Applicant parent throughout the proceedings save as to the...

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