Abducting Your Own Children
It is hard to believe that one can abduct one’s own children but in an era where there has been a dramatic increase in the number of international families and of families working and living in other Countries, this has led to an increase in the number of children crossing international borders. This article does not, and cannot, in a few hundred words give a summary of this difficult area of the law and so instead we will look at a few cases we have recently dealt with.
The mother of 3 children aged 10, 12 and 8 left Ireland to return to her place of birth in England. The children were old enough to express their views, which is that they wanted to stay with their mother and not return to Ireland, but as the children were habitually resident in Ireland and the father had issued proceedings in the Irish Court the children were forced to return to Ireland.
A mother and father had lived most of their working lives in the Middle East. The Husband was born in the Sudan but had a British Passport. The mother was English and lived for many years with her Husband and 3 children in the Emirates. The marriage broke down and the mother abducted to the United Kingdom. The Husband flew to the United Kingdom and issued proceedings for the children’s immediate return. Again, all 3 children one of whom was 11 wanted to return to the Emirates as it was the only life that they were aware of but in this case no return was Ordered because the Emirates are not part of the EU and not part of the International Agreement on Child Abduction (Hague Convention). Any decision about the children would have been dealt with under Shari’a Law which the mother argued would not be in the children’s best interests. In this case they remained in the United Kingdom, with their father having to travel to England to visit them, as and when he could.
The mother abducted the children from Syria against the wishes of the father and immediately sought the assistance of the English Court which blocked a return to Syria. In this case the mother argued that although both parties being Christians are not subject to Shari’a Law she would not get a fair trial in Syria where the law is weighted heavily against women. No return was Ordered.
Parents are often anxious when one party or the other has international connections. They rightly fear that the children could be abducted out of the UK.
Abductions out of the UK are becoming more frequent. Parents often apply for Orders in the UK to prevent abduction to a foreign jurisdiction and the application is normally made without notice in order not to tip off the possible abducting parent.
Leaving England for the remainder of the European Union is not difficult and it is much easier to leave other EU countries for the rest of the world than it is to leave England for the rest of the world. It is therefore important if you have any fears about abduction that you apply to prevent the child from leaving England.
We are frequently asked what should be done about a parent, who is a foreign national, wishing to take his or her children to see their aunt, uncle, mother in a foreign jurisdiction? The UK parent often worries that the holiday could turn into something more permanent especially after the breakdown of the parent's relationship. There are steps that can be taken and if you find yourself in that situation or any of the above situations you should contact a family law solicitor immediately.
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