Do You Know Where Your Child's Passport Is?
Summer holidays 2014 are fast approaching with many parents, together and separated, wondering what they'll do with their kids for the whole summer. Many would have already thought ahead and booked their holidays months in advance
, but some may be relying on cheap last minute deals. Knowing where your child's passport is and who has access to it
during this time can be crucial if you believe your child may be at risk of being abducted by another parent.
If you are a parent with a child arrangement order
(formerly known as a residence order) you can take the child out of the UK for up to 28 days without the other parent's consent
. If there is no order in place about where the child shall live and who is the primary carer, this is a 'no order principle’ situation in which the court probably thought it was best for the child for no order to be made.
What Happens 28 Days Later?
If you fear your child may be abducted, or you have strong suspicions that their passport has gone missing
in the anticipation of a possible abduction, you may be able to get a prohibited steps order
. This will prevent one, or both parents from taking the child without the others express permission. If your child is taken beyond the 28 day period and the other parent fails or refuses to return them to you, this is wrongful retention of a child
The steps you take next will be determined by which country your child is likely to be abducted to
. In cases of parental abduction or abduction by another family member, this is likely to be their country of origin/nationality.
Which Country Have They Gone To?
If the country you suspect your child may be abducted to is within the EU, the Hague Convention
and separate EU laws will apply. The Hague Convention is an agreement between participating countries, set up to protect children from the harmful effects of child abduction
by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return. A list of which exact countries are part of both the Convention and the EU laws can be found on the Reunite website
If the country you suspect your child may be abducted to is part of the Hague Convention, then you should contact the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit (ICACU)
. They will ask you to complete an application form and your case will proceed from there.
If your child is at risk of being abducted to a non-Hague Convention country, then the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)
will tell you what options are available to you. If you cannot agree to have your child returned, beginning a legal process in that country may be your only option.
If you don't know where your child may be abducted to, you should contact the police to make a statement
and they can put measures in place to watch all departure points from the UK.
Taking legal advice fast is the only way to ensure that your case will move as swiftly as possible. If you are in a position where your child may be abducted to a non-Hague Convention country, then you will need to find out what your rights are as a parent
under that country's local laws.
What Can I Do Right Now?
In summary, here are the steps you can take now
to ensure that your child is not removed from the UK without your permission.
- Contact a solicitor to make sure you are clear on your legal position as a parent. You may need a residence or prohibited steps order to prevent the abduction
- Make sure the Identity and Passport Service have a copy of the court order to make sure they do not issue another British passport to your child without your permission – this is a service reserved for special circumstances
- The Consulate, High Commission or Embassy of the other parent, if they are not British, may be able to issue them a passport for your child. You or your solicitor can write to them and ask them not to do so, however, they don’t have to agree to this request
- You can go to your local police station and ask them to put out a 'Port Alert' if there is a real and imminent danger that your child will be abducted within 48 hours. All UK points of departure will be out on guard in case your partner/ex-partner tries to flee with your child
If you believe there is a real threat to your child, we can help you to protect them and keep them in the UK
. If they have already been abducted we can negotiate on your behalf to try and return them home.