There is an international treaty that can be used in cases of child abduction. It is called the Hague Convention.
What is the Hague Convention and Does it Work in Britain?
The country where your child normally lives is called their country of habitual residency and the Court in that country will have “legal jurisdiction”. If you remove your child from their country of habitual residency without the consent of an authorised person (normally the other parent), this could be treated as child abduction under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
It is also important to know that removing a child from the UK is also a criminal offence under the Child Abduction Act 1984, which may be punished by a fine or up to seven years in prison.
At present, the Hague Convention covers 91 countries, including the UK. Most applications in the UK are dealt with by the England and Wales International Child Abduction and Contact Unit (ICACU). The Hague Convention also applies in reverse when both parents and the child are British citizens and one of them wishes to return to the UK with the child.
What if a Parent Moves Abroad with a Child Without Consent?
Both UK law and the Hague Convention disregards the issue of nationality, focusing instead on where the child lives. The parent whose child was wrongfully removed or retained in another member state can make an application for the child to be returned “home”.
Once the application is filed to a Central Authority, action can be taken to secure the return of the child. In England and Wales, this may involve a High Court Order which can be made to discover the whereabouts of a child, seize passports and ID cards or stop the child at the border to avoid further removal.
Return is the first step after unlawful removal. The Courts of the other country can then decide on the child’s long-term future. This means that a child can't be taken to another country with the intention of asking for approval from the Family Court after the fact.