Preventing a Child from Leaving the UK

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Child abduction is when a person removes or sends away, a child under the age of 16 years from the UK without the consent of all the people who have Parental Responsibility - those who have custody of the child or the Court’s permission to make decisions on their behalf. It is a criminal offence under the Child Abduction Act 1984.

If you believe that your child is at risk of abduction, it’s crucial to act quickly. For initial advice get in touch with our Family and Child Law Solicitors.

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What to Do if Your Child is at Risk of Abduction

Legal Measures

If you think that your child is at risk of being removed from the UK without your consent, an application should be made to the Court for one or more of the following:

  • A Prohibited Steps Order preventing your child from being removed from the UK
  • A Specific Issue Order, to determine whether your child can be removed from the UK
  • A Child Arrangement Order, to state that your child is to permanently live with you (if you are successful with this application, and don’t already have Parental Responsibility for your child, then the Court will automatically grant your Parental Responsibility at the same time. This would mean that any person seeking to remove your child from the UK would need your consent to do so).
  • Tipstaff Orders, specifically for a Location Order, Collection Order or Passport Order. These Court Orders allow the Tipstaff (enforcement officers for the High Court) to locate a child, collect a child if their location is known or seize passports or travel documents of a child. Where a Location Order or Collection Order is made then there is an automatic Port Alert.
  • Under the Family Law Act 1986, the Court may order the police to take charge of and deliver a child to a named person, order the surrender of UK passports and order disclosure of a child's whereabouts - for example, if a family member knows of the child’s whereabouts but is refusing to disclose the child’s location.

All of these applications can be made to the Court by completing Form C100 and filing the same at your local Family Court. There are Court fees payable on such applications unless an exemption or reduction in fees applies.

Practical Measures

Other options include:

  • Contacting HM Passport Office to prevent a passport being issued to the child, or to surrender the child’s passport. The Passport Office may require a Court Order, as above, although if you are an unmarried mother, then this shouldn’t be the case.
  • Inform the police of your concerns. Where the police are satisfied that the threat of child abduction is both "real" and "imminent", they may initiate the process to make a Port Alert without a Court order. A Port Alert remains in force for 4 weeks, after which it is automatically removed unless a further application is made.
  • Get legal advice from a Family and Child Law Solicitor.

Urgent Court Applications

Where the threat of removal is immediate, the above applications to the Court can be made on an urgent basis and without notice to the other party. 

When and for How Long can a Child Legally be Taken Outside the UK?

You need the consent of everyone who has Parental Responsibility for the child to be able to take the child out of the UK. However, a parent who has a Child Arrangement Order (previously called a Residence Order) in force that states that the child is to live with them may take the child out of the UK for a period of up to 28 days without consent of other people who have Parental Responsibility (so long as there is no Court Order preventing them from doing so).

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