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What is Abduction?

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 18 Oct 2021 | comments*Discuss
 
Abduction Parents Children Parental

Child abduction by a parent is rare, but stories have appeared in the news more regularly in recent times. The increase in travel availability, better links with foreign countries and introduction of low cost airlines means that cases where one parent takes a child on holiday and is pursued by the other parent on abduction charges are more common. To avoid any illegal activity and ensure you can relax and enjoy holidays with your child without wondering what court action will be waiting for you on your return or risking arrest, make sure you understand the law surrounding abduction.

What Does Abduction Mean?

According to the Child Abduction Act 1984:

"…a person connected with a child under the age of 16 commits an offence if he takes or sends a child outside of the United Kingdom without the appropriate consent."

This means that any situations in which you leave the UK with your child without official consent can be classed as abduction. There are two separate offences: one of removal, and one of keeping, according to the case of Foster v DPP [2005].

You are 'a person connected with a child' if you are their parent, guardian, or have a residence or contact order in respect of that child.

The 'appropriate consent' means the consent of the child's mother, father (if he has parental responsibility), guardian and any person who has a residence order or custody of the child. The amount of consent needed will depend upon your circumstances. Your right to take your child abroad will depend on the access you are granted too.

You do not however need any person's consent to remove a child under 16 from the United Kingdom for up to one month if you have a sole residence order in favour of the child.

It is however always best to discuss your plans with your former partner even if you do not need their consent. If they removed your children from the UK, even if it was just for a holiday, what would you think? Would you panic that they were gone forever? They do not have to agree to your plans, or even like them, but they are less likely to start misguided, but time-consuming court proceedings in the short time you are away if they know when you are going, and where. If you are able, you could even ask your children to keep in touch with their other parent whilst you are away (eg via a short telephone call or via skype or email).

"'Abduction' is a legal fiction because a parent cannot 'abduct' their own child. Although lawyers are keen to say that 'no law is gender bias' all too often the courts are willing to recognise this legal fiction when it applies to fathers and not so keen when mothers are the guilty party."

As detailed above, a parent can legally abduct their own child. It is true that it is not an offence for a mother to remove a child from the country without the consent of a father without parental responsibility. The same applies in reverse, though it is less common for mothers not to have parental responsibility as their name is automatically put on the child's birth certificate. Case law shows that it is however more common for women to commit child abduction than men, and the courts take a very hard line in these cases.

Can a Child be Abducted Within the UK?

Although the legal systems of some countries within the UK are distinctly different, (eg Scotland has different laws to England and Wales), all matters involving child movement are governed by the same laws. If you move your child within the UK, it cannot be classed as abduction, as long as you have Parental Responsibility. However if you decide to move within the UK, the other parent can still seek the return of your child through court proceedings.

In order to prevent the hassle of court proceedings, and potentially having to move back somewhere after a recent relocation, it is always best to notify your former partner of your intent to move. If they do not want you to move, they can instigate court proceedings in the form of a Prohibited Steps Order under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 to attempt to prevent this. Of course these court proceedings would still be a hassle, but surely it is better to deal with any potential problem before you move, rather than move and risk being told that you have to move back.

"Would like to know where I stand on my rights? My ex partner and mother of our 4yr old son has started a new relationship and is thinking of moving them down to Wales from Eastbourne, England. I'm against this as it would ruin the relationship between my son and I, please help."

If one partner moves with a child elsewhere in the UK, you can obtain their return if this results in a breach of any contact order. Under Part 1 of the Family Law Act 1986, a contact order is enforceable in any part of the United Kingdom once registered with the court (despite Scottish courts having a different legal system).

If you do not have a contact order in place, you can apply for one from the courts. Alternatively, if you already have parental responsibility, you can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. (You need to fill in form C100 (you can get a copy at here and pay a £200 court fee to apply).

Fathers with Parental Responsibility

Even if you both have parental responsibility, you have the right to take your child on holiday.

"I have split from ex whom I share 2 kids with, (2&4 years old). We weren't married but I have parental responsibility and want to take my 4 year old on holiday to Spain to see my parents. My ex doesn't like my parents and is refusing to give me consent to take my daughter. Is this reasonable grounds and do I have any rights?"

It is highly advisable that you seek the agreement of the mother before taking your trip, as it can be classed as abduction if all people with parental responsibility have not given consent. Taking your child out of the country without letting the mother know will also reflect badly on you in future legal proceedings, while aggravating the relationship between you and your child's mother. If the mother is unavailable to give consent, or if consent is being 'unreasonably withheld', then this consent does not need to be given.

You will not commit an offence under the Child Abduction Act 1984 if you remove the child:

  • a) In the belief that the other person has consented, or would consent if they were aware of all the relevant circumstances.
  • b) Having taken all reasonable steps to communicate with the other person but have been unable to communicate.
  • c) Following the other person unreasonably withholding consent.
If your former partner refuses to consent, you may take you child abroad on holiday. However ensure that you have proof to support one of the above defences (for example a copy of a letter sent by recorded delivery to your former partner informing them of the holiday, including when you go away, when you get back, and where you are going).

What if You Don't Have Parental Responsibility?

If you have not got parental responsibility, you have no right to take your child abroad at all. It can be classed as abduction as soon as you begin travelling with your child and you may face criminal prosecution. There are a number of offences you can be charged with, including child abduction, kidnapping and false imprisonment.

If your relationship with your former partner is good and you still want to take your child out of the UK, you must be granted permission by them to do so. Failure to obtain consent is a quick way to upset your former partner, which in turn may well cause your child distress.

The UK has signed both The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 and the European Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Concerning Custody of Children. These Acts allow signatory countries to take action to assist each other in returning children to their home country. They have had great success to date, finding and returning children abducted abroad in average in 11.5 weeks.

Applying to Move Abroad Permanently?

If your aim is to move permanently with your child to a foreign country and your other partner does not agree with the move, you will find some obstacles in your way. To be granted a move you must prove to a court that you have a reasonable and realistic plan which has the best interests of your child's welfare at heart. Obviously, if your plan involves taking your child to a country where contact with the mother will be limited, the child's welfare will be called into question.

The law will always try to consider the child's feeling in these situations, depending on age and understanding. Children over the age of 11 will normally have a deciding say in the relocation, while if a teenager expresses a wish to remain in the UK, it is very rare that a court will demand that they leave with the parent.

If wish to take your child abroad, either for a holiday or to live abroad, make sure that you keep the other parent informed. It is far better to work with the courts than against them, and being arrested abroad is never fun, even if you are later released without charge!

Check out the Separated Dads Forum... It's a great resource where you can ask for advice on topics including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or simply to have a chat with other dads.

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[Add a Comment]
And after reliving the past yeah I realised the mother was in a relationship with Gordon. And I need a court order if I ever wanted to see this child .but there's no need for that now because she is a adult now .
C laurie - 18-Oct-21 @ 6:21 AM
I guess I had to relive the past to make sence off it ..I was to( young )I worked out and probably never should off had a child in the first place .I went though guilt because off everyone would ask do you see your daughter how's your daughter .so I just stop hanging around those people stuck in old ways.and started a new life how I just say when people ask I never had any children.
C laurie - 18-Oct-21 @ 6:02 AM
I'm on social media so if she ever wanted to meet and have( lunch) we can but its up to( her )now she is a adult now.but yeah I'm done grieving now and living in the past .
C laurie - 18-Oct-21 @ 12:21 AM
(Enough with this nonsense I have( grieved )enough for my daughter) .I know she be right if she ever needed me she knows where to find me .
C laurie - 17-Oct-21 @ 11:07 PM
You get to old you can’t do it .but me I’m like the real Bartley Garman but in my family it was Cecil Laurie and guess what I knocked him out with a right hand I was so proud .
Chris - 17-Oct-21 @ 12:57 PM
you all want the truth i wanted to fighta seclect few before i got to old
chriso - 17-Oct-21 @ 12:22 PM
I’m never going to see my daughter again I will die without ever meeting her wow that’s a sad reality .I must move on now I think I have grieve enough.it’s time to fully let go it’s affecting my future and I don’t like that .
Chris - 17-Oct-21 @ 6:57 AM
Only Because her mother is a unfit mother that women should off never had children.that way her mother could follow her dream and work in a brothel maybe she could off worked her way up to a madamand use all the drugs she wanted and catch all the stds she wanted .
Chris - 17-Oct-21 @ 6:06 AM
@lolo ,in reality im a pacifist now law abiding productive member off society that hasn't been in trouble for years .one thing I did learn when I was in trouble years ago when young waspatience and knowing when to walk away and letting go .because know one will help you so you must help yourself .the amount off trouble you put me though was enough for myself to wake up .just so you know I'm glad I never have to associate with you ever again and that makes me( feel all warm inside) .have a good life buddy peace out .
C laurie - 16-Oct-21 @ 5:55 AM
@lolo.is that you Sam ?still trying to manipulate ??loser .you won’t get a reaction from me I beat you at any game you old washed up bar maid
Hello - 16-Oct-21 @ 2:02 AM
Concretetruck driver part timeit’s easy workdrive to point a to b buy gps .for a company but work for a owner driver what I have worked out whatever. just as long as I get paid
Chris - 15-Oct-21 @ 2:42 PM
I myself have got a job now( need extra money )getting close to Christmas got pay for our water skiing and fishing trip( I will try and stick it out) I actually feel better in myself when I work .I didn't even think I would get it like im not a really skilled person and apparently my resume is terrible he said my answers where good but .he ask my you won't this job I said money .he said what do you offer this company I said I'm machine with truck licence. They gave me the job so try stick out .
Chris - 15-Oct-21 @ 8:51 AM
I have never stopped ex partner from taking kids to his parents in Southern Ireland however he returned back to uk 4 days after leaving daughter there without informing me as he said it was a two week holiday, I found out by pure accident he returned to work, even his mum thought I was aware, that cannot be right or fair, I’ve been more than accommodating but this isn’t right surely
Lolo - 15-Oct-21 @ 5:41 AM
I have never stopped my ex from visiting his parents with children Southern Ireland however he never informed me he was leaving her there and he was returning to work back in uk, we are not married and that cannot be right , he told me he was away with daughter for two weeks however he returned after 4 days leaving her there and with them thinking I knew, I’ve never stopped children from their visits to grandparents , what do I do
Lolo - 15-Oct-21 @ 5:35 AM
I understand this is for father's but there's not many pages that r in my situation that can help I trusted him with my child as I knew it would break him if I taken her of him then.
Katy - 14-Apr-21 @ 6:55 AM
Hi me n my ex split up few years now because of him being abusive to wards me... My child lives with him as I had nowhere to take her no one wanted to help as no harm was happening to her only me(but that's another issue) .. As far as am aware we both have parental responsibility for the child.. I want to take her aboard to meet my family members (that not got long left) when I speak to him he's okay with me taking her but as soon as I mention to get passport sorted n dates booked he changes his mind saying he doesn't trust me on plane with her ect, that they should come to UK (they unfit to travel) or that I don't go there my self why bother n I explain again why I want to go only for few days so they see n meet our child. He knows I will come back as I don't plan staying there but he just making it difficult every time I mention it to book... Have you got any advice what I could do? My ex is British I'm not my child British with his surname.
Katy - 14-Apr-21 @ 6:53 AM
Hi, I would like some guidance with my case. My ex wife and I separated back in Aug 2018 after a difficult and turbulent marriage. We have a daughter who was 6 months at the time, who I have not seen since. Soon after my ex left she applied for a "to live with" child arrangement order and was granted this by the court.My ex took my daughter abroad in Feb 2020 without my knowledge or permission. I have reported my daughter abducted as well as applied for an awardship and return order. My ex and her family are unwilling to speak to me or answer my calls. To put some pressure am I in a position to reduce the amount of child support I give without suffering any repercussion from the child maintenance agency. Is there anything else I can do to help my case? Thanks
NaseerT - 22-Nov-20 @ 8:48 AM
My ex has took my child away with out my permission for 2 weeks it should be my weekend this week and next week is this classed as abduction as I don't know where they are as she's moved homes and has blocked me from contacting her by social media and over the phone can she do this we have joint custody
Andy - 3-Jul-20 @ 8:45 PM
@samy236.depression anxiety is the number one silent killer these days .so I would be careful if she tried to commit suicide twice .the suicide rates are so high these days .they might find her swinging from the rafters .
Tex - 10-Nov-19 @ 8:26 PM
My partner got depression, tried to commit suicide twice, I took her and our 10 months old daughter to her parents in Slovakia to help her to recover,we went there on the 16th of oct ,I left her there and I came back on the 22nd. She supposed to come back 10 days ago ,but she refused, she said our relationship is over and she will never come back to England, and her mum says as well the same ,so they keep saying her depression because of me not because after giving birth,and I have all the evidence about her depression. Please help
Samy236 - 10-Nov-19 @ 7:16 PM
Hi. My two daughters now in the early teens where taken to Ghana without my consent by my my ex. I have not seen them at all and have only spoken to them twice in three years. They have been brainwashed into disliking/hating me and my ex claims they no longer want to speak to me. I have no contact details for them or knowledge of their whereabouts so I have to rely on the mother to call me via her skype. She doesn't even live with them as she stays and works in England. I do not know who they are staying with. I myself have moved overseas but still have family in England who are prepared to do anything it takes. Please help me as so far I have been advised I cannot do anything as they are overseas. Thank you
In pain - 8-Aug-19 @ 4:15 AM
Hello Me and my ex share a Cortada by eight-year-old son has to stay with my ex I have contact and parent responsibility my ex has left UK and has taken our son with him he sent me a day when they were going abroad for a family holiday on 25/6/19 but they left on 18/6/19 what can I do
Nothappy - 21-Jul-19 @ 5:11 PM
My wife is an Indian national and went to Saudi on visit along with me. Her parents came up to my place and took her and my kids forcibly and were out of reach. I reported them to saudi authorities and they gave me complain report. UK high commision is just a useless crap that they didn't even allow me to meet official or give e help of any sort so i had to come back UK. I have been trying to get them back to UK as they are overstayer in saudi without access to medical or schooling and are in fragile condition.
mady - 9-Dec-18 @ 9:04 PM
Hi there, My wife and I split two years ago and recently told me that my son can’t stay overnight with me. This came about after I had an argument with her sister when she suggested that my two and a half year old son’s aggressive behaviour was a result of him staying with me. He stays with me once a fortnight. She’s now accusing me of taking recreational drugs and says I need to pass a drug test and get anger management (she and I partied when we first met 10 years ago, I’m 44 now and those days are long gone)before I can see my son again. What can I do? She’s deliberately trying to stop me from seeing him over Christmas. What are my rights as a father? How can I stop her from doing this?
Johnny - 22-Nov-18 @ 7:58 AM
In December the ex took our younger children and held them telling them daddy did not love them or want to see them, I messaged everyday asking to see them but all ignored this went on for six and a half weeks with out me or their other siblings seeing or having any contact with them, we then had mediation and an agreement was set up making me main carer for the children and this has been running fine till last week when the ex broke the agreement and again no contact for me or the other siblings, if this type of behaviour is not abduction then what is the name for it where by the children are held from seeing the other parent for no reason at all ??
Glowfish - 25-Oct-18 @ 8:34 PM
I don’t really know where to start, my ex has changed my daughters name I don’t know if this is by deed poll or just at school, when my ex asked me if she could take our daughter abroad I did say I would not give consent as I can’t trust her, so I never heard from her for next few months and was told they didn’t go abroad when I finally heard from her not my daughter, the last 3 years I’ve only been allowed to see my daughter twice a year birthday and Christmas, the last birthday my daughter asked me why do I think I’m her dad. Last year I also found out one of the hospital visits she claimed my daughter was taken in was a lie I phoned the hospital to see if she had been discharged yet but had no record of my daughter being there, and this year I have been told that a taxi driver made inappropriate comments to my little girl and that they were going to court soon, so today I rang the police station to find out more information and strangely they couldn’t find anything relating to this, so I asked for more information regarding this and got a reply telling me I shouldn’t of contacted them it’s not my place, which makes me question the truth in this. Is it wrong for me to feel concerned for my 5 yr old daughter if her mother is willing to lie about such an incident?
LilGaz - 24-Oct-18 @ 8:46 PM
I don’t really know where to start, my ex has changed my daughters name I don’t know if this is by deed poll or just at school, when my ex asked me if she could take our daughter abroad I did say I would not give consent as I can’t trust her, so I never heard from her for next few months and was told they didn’t go abroad when I finally heard from her not my daughter, the last 3 years I’ve only been allowed to see my daughter twice a year birthday and Christmas, the last birthday my daughter asked me why do I think I’m her dad. Last year I also found out one of the hospital visits she claimed my daughter was taken in was a lie I phoned the hospital to see if she had been discharged yet but had no record of my daughter being there, and this year I have been told that a taxi driver made inappropriate comments to my little girl and that they were going to court soon, so today I rang the police station to find out more information and strangely they couldn’t find anything relating to this, so I asked for more information regarding this and got a reply telling me I shouldn’t of contacted them it’s not my place, which makes me question the truth in this. Is it wrong for me to feel concerned for my 5 yr old daughter if her mother is willing to lie about such an incident?
LilGaz - 24-Oct-18 @ 8:23 PM
My partner has just applied to the family court to seek formal access to his daughter.During he last month he has on three occasions been to his ex partners house to see his daughter but the house is always in darkness with no sign of the mother or child.The mother does not answer her phone and has blocked him on all social media. He fears that the mother has returned to Poland, she is a Polish national, with his daughter without his consent or knowledge.How does he proceed with the family court application and what are his rights under UK law to find out where they have gone? Thank you
AL - 4-Sep-18 @ 11:34 AM
Hi. Me and my husband split 1 year ago. In may 2018 I asked him to sign for her passport as I wanted to take he to Italy to see see my parents. He didn’t sign for it. On July I left my daughter with my friend which is her babysitter as well. (She loves her) and as soon as I was back to England he took my daughter and he don’t want her to come back to me. What should I do? Help me please as I want my daughter back with me. Thanks
Klo - 1-Sep-18 @ 8:10 AM
Owens1673 - Your Question:
Hi there, my partner is from Poland and her childrwn were born there. For 10 years they have lived and the children educated in the UK. The father has said terrible things to the children and has also convinced them that they are going to live in Poland. The children have visited their grandparents in Poland, but now the father it seems wishes to keep them there. Although in the separation agreement its states the children could go to poland for a few weeks in the summer only. Is this still classes as abduction even if the children were born in Poland?

Our Response:
Yes, it is still classed as abduction if one parent keeps or takes the children to another country without the resident parent's authorisation.
SeparatedDads - 7-Aug-18 @ 11:30 AM
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