Understanding parental child abduction

Parental child abduction is a very serious issue. Whilst it is still a rare occurrence, it does, unfortunately, happen, and this is often due to a rise in divorce rates, an increase in cross-cultural marriages, and cheaper foreign travel amongst other factors.

The child abduction laws are stipulated in the 1984 Child Abduction Act, the 1985 Child Abduction and Custody Act in the UK, and the 1985 Child Abduction (Northern Ireland Order) and relate to people who seek to take children out of the country without the necessary permission.

What is parental child abduction?

Parental child abduction is a situation when someone that is connected to a child takes them out of the country (the country of their habitual residence) without having the permission of either the people who have parental responsibility for the child, or the courts.

This most commonly occurs when there is a separation or divorce and the parent who has not been awarded the child’s custody takes them out of the country without permission. This is also known as ‘International Parental Child Abduction’, and if you suspect that this has happened, you should contact the Police straight away.

What is considered parental kidnapping?

Parental kidnapping is slightly different from parental child abduction. In this case, there are a number of different situations that can constitute parental kidnapping. They can range from something as seemingly small as preventing parental visitation, to international parental child abduction (essentially abducting the child and taking them to another country).

Parental kidnapping is defined as “hiding, taking, or keeping hold of a child by his or her parent without the consent of the other parent”.

Is it a criminal offence for a parent to abduct a child?

The law in the UK states that it is illegal for anyone that is connected to a child to take them out of the country for more than 28 days without having the consent of any other person who has responsibility for the child – or the courts. A person ‘connected to a child’ refers to an adult with a relationship with the child of the parent, guardian, or special guardian of the child, anyone who has the child living with them, or anyone who has a residence order for the child.

The person that is required to give consent, is the child’s parent, guardian, special guardian, anyone who has the child living with them, or the court.

How can you prevent child abduction

If you think that your child may have been abducted through parental child abduction, the most important thing to do is contact the Police immediately. You should then look to contact a specialist family lawyer such as us here at Waldron’s and talk through your situation.

If you think that there is a chance that someone might try to abduct your child, there are some other precautions that you can take. These include:

  • Speak to a lawyer about applying for a Child Arrangements Order – or something similar, that can be used to prevent the child from being taken out of the country.
  • In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, you could consider going to the court and having the child made a ‘Ward of Court’. This means that the Court essentially becomes a legal guardian of the child and is involved in making decisions about their welfare.
  • Get a court order that prevents your child from getting a British passport without your permission.
  • If the child’s other parent is from another country, you can get in touch with that country’s embassy, consulate, or high commission. You can ask them not to issue a passport to your child for this country. Although they are not required by law to agree, they may accept to do this.
  • Your local police can issue a ‘Port Alert’. This means that the police contact the ports and other points of departure to put them on alert should you believe that there is a strong chance that the child is in imminent danger of being abducted within 48 hours. This alert stands for 28 days.

Family law support with Waldrons Solicitors

Here at Waldrons, we have a team of experienced, family law specialists ready and waiting to advise you on all of your family law queries. Whether it is related to parental child abduction or other issues relating to divorce and law, we are able to listen to your case and help you to decide where to go from here.


Contact Waldrons solicitors

Whatever your family law query, get in touch with us here at Waldrons today.

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Last reviewed on 11/07/23 by Luke Boxall who is a Director and Solicitor