Parental child abduction

International parental child abduction is a human rights issue and one that we take very seriously. We appreciate the distress that child abduction and the difficulties obtaining access can cause to both the child and left-behind parent.

Our Child Abduction Section offers assistance to British nationals affected by international parental child abduction. You can contact them on 0207 008 0878, or out of hours on 0207 008 1500.

You should contact the police if your child has been taken from the UK overseas without your consent.

We deal with 3 broad categories of child abduction:

  • Abduction - where a child has been taken overseas without the other parent's consent - this is a criminal offence under UK law (except in Scotland)
  • Wrongful retention - where a child has been retained in a foreign country following an overseas trip
  • Threat of abduction - where there is a risk that a child will be taken overseas.

What we can do to help:

  • provide you with a list of English-speaking lawyers and interpreters, and provide information on travel and accommodation
  • contact relevant authorities overseas to check on progress made in locating your child if you do not know where they are
  • once a child has been located, carry out a welfare check with the other parent’s consent
  • help you to get in touch with the relevant authorities overseas
  • where appropriate, express to the courts overseas our interest in the case and ask about progress
  • offer advice if you feel your child is at risk of being abducted

What we cannot do:

  • 'rescue’ a child or become involved in any illegal attempts to bring the child back to the UK
  • locate your child if you do not know where they are
  • offer legal advice or interfere in the legal system of another county
  • pay for your legal, travel and accommodation costs.

Dual Nationality

If your child has been taken to a county where they hold dual nationality, the local authorities may view the child as a resident of that country. This will limit what we can do.

The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

This is an international agreement which seeks to return abducted children to the country where they normally live so the courts of that country can decide on issues of custody and access.

Central Authorities in the UK are responsible for all cases that come under the convention. If your child has been abducted to a country which has signed the convention, you should contact the appropriate Central Authority (please see 'useful links' to the right). The Reunite website (opens in new window) has a list of countries which have signed the Hague Convention.

The Ministry of Justice lead on Hague Convention cases, and we do not usually become involved, unless requested to do so by the Central Authority

Non Hague Convention Countries

Finding a solution is especially difficult if your child has been taken to a country which has not signed an international agreement on child abduction. We will however continue to provide practical advice.

The UK-Pakistan Judicial Protocol

If your child has been taken to Pakistan the UK-Pakistan Judicial Protocol may apply.

In January 2003, senior judges from the UK and Pakistan signed the UK-Pakistan Judicial Protocol on Children Matters.

This is an understanding between the judges of each country that the courts of a child's home country are best placed to determine the welfare of that child. 
When a child is wrongfully removed from or retained in the UK or Pakistan, the principle is that a child should be returned to his or her home country so that the courts can hear the case.

A system of liaison judges in the UK and Pakistan facilitate the working or this protocol.  The liaison judges ensure that the courts in each other's country are aware of any pre-existing court orders from the child's home country.

See the ‘Useful documents’ link to the right for:

  • the text of the UK-Pakistan Judicial Protocol on Children Matters (January 2003, London)
  • the Supplemental Judicial Guidelines on the UK-Pakistan Protocol (September 2003, Islamabad)
  • the agreed points from the Panel Session Meeting with the UK-Pakistan Judiciary (February 2006, London)

If you choose to pursue the return of your child to the UK under the UK-Pakistan Protocol, you’ll need to commence legal proceedings first in the UK courts and then in the Pakistani courts.  Your first step should be to consult a lawyer in the UK.

We have produced a short leaflet on the protocol available in English and Urdu.

Useful contacts

FCO Child Abduction Section

Telephone: 0207 008 0878

Out of hours: 0207 008 1500

Useful Links

Central Authority for England and Wales, International Child Abduction and Contact Unit (ICACU) - Tel: 020 7911 7045/47

Central Authority for Northern Ireland - will assist with child abduction cases in Northern Ireland

Central Authority for Scotland- will assist with child abduction cases in Scotland

Family Law Bar Association - guidance for judges on the implementation of the UK-Pakistan Protocol

Reunite -  we work closely with Reunite, a leading UK charity specialising in international child abduction. They can provide advice and support to parents who have had a child abducted or fear an abduction. They can send information on preventing child abduction and can send you a list of lawyers in the UK who specialise in child abduction cases.

Reunite advice line: 0116 2556 234

HCCH - Hague Conference homepage

International Social Services - work closely with the social services in the UK and have a number of offices overseas


Related Documents

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