What If Your Child Has Already Been Abducted?
Child abduction is a very traumatic experience. There are legal procedures in place to ensure that the children are returned to their country of residence, but how long it will take will depend on the country concerned, the circumstances of the case and indeed whether the child can be traced.
It is important to establish as soon as possible what your parental rights are under the local law of the country to which your child has been taken. You should obtain urgent legal advice about the laws and practice for the country concerned and the position regarding legal aid for legal costs.
The United Kingdom is signatory to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction which came into force under domestic legislation through the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985. Brussels II Revised Regulation came into effect at the end of 2003 and addresses cases arising under the Hague Convention where member States of the European Community are involved.
Under the Convention, if your child is "abducted" by the non-resident parent into one of 64 countries who have signed the Convention, these countries have an acknowledged framework within which to operate in order to assist in the safe return of the child to its custodial parent.
How To Get Your Child Back
In cases where mediation is a possibility, Reunite offer a comprehensive specialist mediation service where trained impartial staff who have a wealth of experience in international children’s cases can help parents reach a workable and realistic solution avoiding the need for costly courtroom battles.
Where mediation is not possible, the chances of you getting your child back vary according to which country your child has been taken to and your relationship with the other parent. Time is precious in any parental abduction case and it is therefore essential that you contact a family solicitor immediately. They can help you obtain the necessary legal orders as quickly and efficiently as possible and put you in touch with organisations who can advise you in the more complex international cases.
How Long Will It Take To Get Your Child Back?
How long it will take to deal with an application for return will depend on the country concerned, the circumstances of the case and indeed whether the child can be traced.
Abductions heard under the Hague Convention are supposed to be heard quickly. Most abduction cases involving another European country are meant to take no more than six weeks from lodging of an application to delivery of judgement.
It is important to make your application within one year of the child’s abduction and as quickly as possible since this greatly increases your chances of the child’s return. If it is left longer than this, there is a possibility the courts may consider whether the welfare of the child would be unsettled by another move, albeit to their normal country of residence.
In countries outside the Hague Convention it is more difficult to determine a time frame since it depends on the individual legal system of the country itself and on the circumstances of the abduction. Again, it is essential that you act immediately for the best chances of a return.
How Much Will It Cost To Get Your Child Back?
Non means tested (free) legal aid is available to meet the applicant's legal costs for applications for the return of a child made in the UK under the Revised Brussels II Regulation and European Convention. You can ask your solicitor for advice on how to apply.
Expenses incurred when returning the child are not covered by the conventions nor by the Revised Brussels II Regulation but applicants may request in the questionnaire that an order for travel costs be made against the person who has removed / retained the child. The court will consider the request but is not bound to make such an order.
The International Child Abduction and Contact Unit can provide parents with information about legal costs in specific countries.
Here at Hartnell Chanot & Partners we have noticed a trend in the information being provided by many of the bodies involved in international family justice. As you will have seen from our earlier blogs: first it was the Foreign Office, …
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