Child abduction and custody disputes

Modern society has become progressively more mobile, with people from different countries and cultures intermarrying. Children may be moved between jurisdictions by agreement between their parents as a result of legal proceedings, or because they have been abducted.

It is crucial that anyone wishing to move children or seeking the return of children from one country to another, obtains advice from a specialist in child abduction law. It is not sufficient to seek advice from a general family lawyer, who may not be familiar with this fast evolving area of law, where a wrong step can have far reaching consequences.

Dawson Cornwell is a member of the Ministry of Justice, International Child Abduction & Contact Unit panel of solicitors who are instructed in Hague and European Convention cases. The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction deals primarily with children who are wrongfully removed from one jurisdiction to another or who are retained outside the country of their habitual residence. That convention sets out the law and procedure that should be followed to ensure the immediate return of children to the jurisdiction of their habitual residence.

We are able to make an emergency application for non-means tested Legal Aid for plaintiffs in cases where children are brought to England.

The Hague Convention also contains a provision for securing the effective exercise of rights of access/contact. An application for contact would be made in the usual way under the domestic law of the relevant country, namely the Children Act 1989 in England and Wales.

The 1980 European Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Concerning Custody of Children is an order based convention and makes provision for the enforcement of existing decisions relating to custody and for the return of children who have been properly removed from another signatory state in breach of a custody decision. This is now confined to a very small number of European countries, which are not members of the European Community.

The EC Regulation 2201/2003 (known as Brussells II revised) applies to all European Community Member States, except for Denmark. With regard to parental responsibility of children, the court of the Member State in which the child is habitually resident will generally have jurisdiction.

Children are also removed from England to countries that are not “convention states” or brought to England from a non-convention state. The legal issues involved are more complex but Legal Aid will be available provided that the applicant can meet the means and merits test.

 

Our 24 hour emergency telephone line in the event of a child abduction is: - +44 (0)20 8607 9660