July 8, 2011

International parental abduction back in spotlight this summer

New figures released by the Foreign Office reveal an alarming rise in international parental abduction cases that can turn summer holidays into a nightmare for parents and siblings left behind.  Every other day a British child is abducted by a parent to a country which has not signed the Hague Convention on international parental abduction.

The latest figures represent a 10 per cent increase in new cases handled by the Foreign Office 2010/2011. Statistics for January to May 2011 are even more alarming, showing a 21 per cent leap in the number of abductions to non-Hague states, compared to the same period last year. Evidence shows that many cases occur around school holidays when a parent refuses to return a child following a visit to the parent’s home country.  

At Jones Myers our children’s law team have had many years’ experience of handling international abduction cases and have become familiar with the warning signs that can often signal an abduction. Here are some of the most common.  

  • Be aware of any significant change in the behaviour of your partner. Persistent or surprising requests for birth certificates, passports and legal documentation could  suggest a trip abroad. 
  • Tell-tale signs can also be resigning from employment or spending significant and unusually long periods of time abroad, or renewing acquaintances abroad with family or friends. 
  • Extending contact periods and not abiding by a contact agreement or court order could also be a warning sign.
  • An insistence on having lengthier periods of time with the child or children, a worrying lack of communication and of course the voice of the child should all also trigger alarms.

Obtaining expert legal advice is essential if there is the slightest risk or anxiety of a potential abduction. Swift action can prevent closing the stable door after the parent, and child, have bolted. Lawyers can act immediately and have the ability to apply for a range of court orders including prohibitive steps, wardship and port alerts to prevent a child being abducted.”

It is also well worth contacting Reunite International www.reunite.org  a charitable organisation specialising in international parental child abduction and the movement of children across international borders, which offers a multitude of useful advice as well as a specialist mediation service for parents.