Parental Child Abduction

Although the term “abduction” suggests stealing a child away from somewhere by force, the law refers to abduction when it comes to parents in a different way. Parental child abduction refers to a person who is connected to a child (i.e. their legal parent) taking the child away from the UK (or their home country) without the permission of the court or the consent of other people who have a parental responsibility for the child in the eyes of the law. Abducting a child in the UK is a serious offence, even if you are one of the child’s legal parents.

When does abducting a child in the UK usually occur?

Parental child abduction most often occurs after a separation or divorce between former spouses who have a child (or multiple children) together. If one parent has not been awarded custody (residency) of the child because of the court’s agreement, they may attempt to abduct the child and take them away to a foreign country in order to escape the law and stop the child’s other parent from having custody of them as the court intended. Abducting a child in the UK used to be rare, although it has become more prevalent in recent years. With increasing amounts of cross-cultural marriages, high divorce rates, cheap airfare and immigration law amendments, there has been a rise in this kind of international childcare dispute. These factors have often combined and led a desperate or upset parent to illegally take their child out of the UK.

Is abducting a child a criminal offence in the UK?

When it comes to parental child abduction, the Child Abduction Act of 1984 states that anyone who is connected with a child cannot take them out of the UK for more than 28 days without receiving the permission of the other party who has parental responsibility for the child, as well as receiving consent from the courts. The law concerns a person “connected to the child” if they are a parent, guardian, special guardian, residence order holder, or a person who the child lives with on an ongoing basis. In order to take a child out of the UK for over 28 days without it being a criminal offence, the mother/ father (assuming they have parental responsibility) would have to give their consent beforehand, as well as the child’s legal guardians, special guardians, people who have permission from the court, and those who live with the child.

What if I want to take my child on holiday?

If you are divorced and you wish to take your child on holiday, there are some legal issues to consider. If you are taking your child on holiday within England and Wales, there is usually no legal obligation to obtain consent from other people with parental responsibility, unless there is an agreement which states otherwise. If you wish to take your child on holiday to somewhere other than England and Wales (i.e. Scotland or overseas) then you will not require consent if the duration of the trip is less than 28 days. If the duration of the holiday exceeds 28 days and is outside of England and Wales, then you will require the consent of other parentally responsible parties in order to do so. If you are a Special Guardianship Order holder with regards to the child, then you can take the child on a holiday outside of England and Wales for up to 3 months without requiring the consent of other parentally responsible parties. An order known as a “Prohibited Steps Order” (PSO) is the only thing which can prevent you from taking a child away from England and Wales on holiday, even if you are a person with parental responsibility for the child.

Abducting a child is a serious offence in the UK, even if you are a person who has parental responsibility for a child. If you’re facing a case of parental child abduction, we can offer you professional bespoke advice. Our legal team have years of experience with child abduction cases and can help you to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Need our help? Get in touch with Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors today.