Parental Abduction: What are the Risks and how can it be resolved?

Parental abduction and wrongful retention – where a child has been taken to or kept in a foreign country following an overseas trip without the appropriate consent – are not issues that any parent wants to consider. However, unfortunately as the summer holidays draw to a close, many parents are having to face them as a life-altering reality. Most commonly, retention of a child abroad takes place following a separation or divorce and is carried out by the parent who is not the primary carer of the child.

According to Missing Children Europe’s latest report, out of 1,246 new cases opened on the hotlines in 2018, just 18% were returned to their parent at home following abduction by another parent. In 1.2% of the cases, children were found to have died. In addition, 64% of children who are abducted by a parent have no contact with a parent left behind during the abduction.

These shocking statistics reinforce the importance of preventing this happening where possible and expeditious resolution when it does occur. By seeking legal advice at an early stage, parents can avoid tragic circumstances such as this and ensure the best possible outcome for both parent and child.

While not often widely publicised, this is by no means a rare occurrence and it can happen to anyone, whatever the circumstance. In 2016, Madonna famously made a legal bid under child abduction laws to force former husband Guy Ritchie to return their teenage son to America after, while travelling through Europe with his mother, Rocco decided to stay with his father in the UK. However, in this instance, the court allowed Rocco, aged 14 at the time, to live with his father.

Whether because of disputes regarding children’s living arrangements, preference to move abroad or immigration issues, there are many reasons for parental abduction and wrongful retention to occur. Parental abduction may not sound as severe as abduction by a stranger at face value, but it can have devastating impact on both the parent left behind and the child. In some cases, the parent may never see their child again. It can also be extremely distressing for the child who, in many cases, does not have a choice in the matter and may be abducted against their own wishes.

At MSB, we are the only firm in the North West to be requested to act for parents through ICACU (the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit) and have significant experience in this area. We have successfully acted on behalf of parents who are desperate to have their children returned to them and those with cogent reasons to defend such applications. We have seen the number of international child abduction increasing, perhaps due to an increase in international travel, high separation rates and an increase in the number of families moving abroad.

If you find yourself in a situation involving parental abduction or if you believe that you are at risk, urgent legal advice is essential. Do not hesitate to contact us:

Closing remarks

Overall, the law has again developed within the fast-paced family sector, accommodating for equality and the opportunity for all couples to enter into a type of relationship which is not the traditional marriage structure.

It will be exciting to see the next stages of this development and the case law that will follow on from such Supreme Court ruling.

Author: Mak Singh