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Recover a child who has been taken or kept overseas

In most westernised countries there is a treaty called the Hague Convention which provides a set of standard rules that should be followed by every country that has signed up to the convention.

As a general rule, for married couples, if either parent wishes to take the child abroad for a holiday or premanently then they have to seek and obtain permission from the other parent. The issue is more complex where the parents are not married.


In family law, "Child Abduction" is the area of law covering children being removed from their normal country of residence:

Wrongful Removal - when one parent takes a child abroad without the permission of the other parent or the court.

Wrongful Retention - where a parent did obtain permission to take the child abroad temporarily, perhaps for a holiday or family visit, but then later fails to return the child on the agreed date.


The courts when dealing with child abduction matters are primarily dealing with which country's court should deal with the welfare arrangements for the child concerned. If, for example, a child has been brought to England & Wales without the permisssion of the other parent or the foreign court the normal result is for the child to be sent back to what is called their country of habitual residence.

There are exceptions:

  1. if you can show that the other person agreed to the removal
  2. if the child was spending equal amounts of time in two different countries
  3. if there was significant violence which could not be controlled
  4. if the child was of an age where they objected to a return and they are of an age where they are deemed mature enough to object.

The examples listed above are not exhaustive.

It is also important to consider how the foreign courts will deal with a returning child and parent. For example, a parent and child returning from the UK to the USA after being ordered to return after a finding of child abduction is likely to be treated in a significantly different manner than if that parent and child were returning from the USA to the UK as on the whole US courts take a more punitive view to a parent seen as an abductor than the courts in England & Wales do.

In an ideal world parents need to make the proper application to the court for a relocation of the child to the country they seek to live in rather than take actions which can lead to severe civil and criminal sanctions.

Meet Our Experts In Child Law

If you are seeking advice on a child related matter, Wikivorce can provide you with advice from one of our own Consultants or from one of our partner solicitors.

Ruth, our Divorce Consultant specialising in Child Arrangements.

Ruth is a Qualified Paralegal specialising in Family Law in both England/Wales and Scotland, with a particular interest in the law as it applies to children. She is the co-author of The Family Law A to Z - A reference book for litigants & students. This is a comprehensive and detailed A to Z of family law terminology and jargon, covering the English and Welsh jurisdiction.

She has a wide-ranging, in-depth understanding of family law both in England/Wales and Scotland, with a particular interest in the law as it relates to children. She has a comprehensive understanding of current legislation, procedures and forms.

Wikivorce is very proud of Ruth winning "Paralegal of the Year" in the 2015 Family Law awards.

Ruth has helped hundreds of Wikivorce clients who needed assistance with reaching agreement on child arrangements such as schooling issues, living arrangements, holiday planning, parental responsibility and a whole range of other issues.

Simon, our specialist and highly experienced child issues solicitor.

Simon is a partner at a successful law firm with a strong family law team that is recognised by the Legal 500 and Chambers directories for their high level of expertise and commanding knowledge of all areas of child law. Simon is a specialist in international child abduction law.

He is one of only a handful of qualified lawyers in the UK who is a member of the International Child Abduction Hague Convention and Wardship panel. Simon is one of the few recommended solicitors endorsed by Reunite and ICACU. His family law expertise includes ancillary relief matters, and he has a deep understanding of international family law. He recently became a member of the International Bar Association.

Simon is a partner and head of Family Law at a well highly respected law firm which has grown rapidly in the last few years and now has over 250 employees. They have a large and experienced family law department that is capable of handling complex cases involving divorce, finances and child contact/residence issues. They are fully accredited by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and follow their code of conduct.

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Useful Resources

These organisations provide specialist support and advice to parents dealing with the issue of child abduction.

Reunite is a leading UK charity specialising in the movement in children across international borders. They operate a free advice line offering practical, impartial advice, information and support to parents, family members, and guardians who have had their child abducted, as well as parents and guardians who may have abducted their child. The advice line number is 01162 556234.

Child Abduction Lawyers Association (CALA) is an organisation set up in 2014 to share legal information between legal professionals expert in this field and other connected organisations in relation to the law and procedure relating to worldwide child abduction matters. Brethertons have several solicitors who are members of this organisation.

The International Child Abduction and Contact Unit (ICACU) is a part of the Ministry of Justice acting as an administrative platform in order to assist people whose children have either been abducted or been retained to/from England and Wales. They coordinate arrangements with other countries. They have a specialist law firm panel of approximately 50 firms. Our lawyers have been a member of this panel since 2001.