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How to prevent child abduction?

Child abduction occurs when someone removes a child aged under 16 from the UK without obtaining permission from those who have parental responsibility for the child or permission from a court. Child abduction is a serious criminal offence. As family law solicitors, we frequently encounter cases of alleged child abduction.

In this article, we’ll explain what child abduction is, how to prevent it and what to do if a child is abducted.


What is child abduction?

Child abduction occurs when a child (aged under 16) is taken (or sent) abroad by a person connected with the child, who does not have the permission of the person/people with parental responsibility to do so, or permission from the court.

Under the Child Abduction Act 1984, it is a criminal offence for anyone connected with a child to send or take that child abroad without the “appropriate consent”.

Within the Child Abduction Act 1984, “appropriate consent” means:

(a) the consent of each of the following—

(i) The child’s mother;
(ii) the child’s father, if he has parental responsibility for him;
(iii) any guardian of the child;
(iv) any special guardian of the child;
(v) any person named in a child arrangements order as a person with whom the child is to live;
(vi) any person who has custody of the child; or

(b) the leave of the court granted under or by virtue of any provision of Part II of the Children Act 1989; or

(c) if any person has custody of the child, the leave of the court which awarded custody to him.

It is important to note here that if the person who has taken the child out of the UK has a ‘Child Arrangements Order’ which states that the child should live with them, they will not be breaking the law as long as the child will not be out of the country for more than 28 days without consent from the other party/parties. For those with a ‘Special Guardianship Order’, this time period extends to no more than three months.

child abduction


Parental child abduction after divorce or separation

Parental child abduction following the breakdown of a relationship is one of the most common types of child abduction.

In order to move abroad with a child, anyone who has parental responsibility for that child has to give permission for the child to be able to move (unless there is court order granting the parent permission for the move). Child abduction may take place if this permission is not obtained and the parent takes their child abroad.

It may be possible to get a court order so the parent and child can move abroad without the permission of any other relevant parties.

Likewise, it may be possible to get a court order to stop a child from being taken abroad, if you suspect child abduction may be about to take place.


Taking a child abroad without the appropriate permissions could be a criminal offence

Child abduction is a serious matter. If you are unsure about whether you are able to take a child abroad, even if it’s just for a holiday, it is always best to seek legal advice so that you don’t fall foul of child abduction laws.

Taking a child abroad without permission from everyone with parental responsibility (or from a court) is child abduction.

However, if the person who removes the child from the UK has a child arrangements order stating that the child lives with them, they are able to take the child out of the UK for up to 28 days without permission from anyone else with parental responsibility (or the court). This would not be viewed as child abduction.

So, as long as there is no court order stating to the contrary and as long as a child arrangement order says that the child should live with you, you can take a child on holiday abroad (for up to 28 days) without getting permission.


Where to report child abduction

As child abduction is a criminal offence, you should inform the police and seek legal advice immediately.


How to prevent child abduction

If you think your ex is planning to abduct your child, you must act quickly.

As well as seeking legal advice from a specialist solicitor such as Austin Kemp, you should contact the police and tell them that your child is at risk of being abducted. A Port Alert may be issued. The police may also attempt to find the other parent and your child.

You could also try to find your child’s passport.


What’s a child abduction emergency?

With child abduction, speed is of the essence. If you believe that your child is going to be taken overseas in the next 48 hours, it’s important to act quickly so that a Port Alert can be put in place. This informs all UK departure points of the possible abduction, so that it can hopefully be prevented. Port Alerts remain live for 28 days, giving you time to seek legal advice.

Normally, a letter from everyone with parental responsibility giving you permission to take the child abroad, is enough.

If you have not obtained permission from all those with parental responsibility, you will need to apply for permission from the court.

It’s highly advisable that you seek legal advice from a solicitor experienced in this area of law, such as Austin Kemp, before taking a child abroad, particularly if you are unsure if you have the necessary permissions.


How can child abduction be prevented?

If you think that your spouse is going to take your child abroad without your permission, it is important to act quickly and seek legal advice from specialist solicitors (such as Austin Kemp) as soon as possible. You should also alert your local police station.

Speed is of the essence in cases of potential child abduction. Your solicitor will act quickly to put all of the necessary stops in place.


How can our expert family law solicitors help you?

Our expert family law solicitors can help you with a range of legal issues relating to child abduction, including:


Contact our expert family law solicitors

For more information call our expert family law solicitors on 0845 862 5001 or email

Our expert family law solicitors offer a nationwide service. We have client meeting office facilities available, in order to have face-to-face client meetings / conferences as and when required in:

Leeds Office: St Andrew House, The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 5JW

Wakefield Office: Market Walk, Wakefield, WF1 1QR

Halifax Office: Old Lane, Halifax, HX3 5WP

Huddersfield Office: Northumberland Street Huddersfield, HD1 1RL

Coventry Office: Warwick Road, Coventry, CV1 2DY

Canary Wharf Office: 25 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5LB

Please contact us for more details.

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07th January 2020

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