Parental child abduction
It may be a criminal offence if your husband, wife, partner or ex takes your child abroad without your permission.
The legal situation can be complicated, depending on what has happened and who has legal custody of the child.
If you think your child has been abducted
Contact the police immediately.
Call 999 if you think they are in immediate danger. If you have a hearing or speech impairment, use our textphone service 18000 or text us on 999 if you’ve pre-registered with the emergencySMS service.
We will ask you about:
- the child’s full name and description
- why you think they may have been abducted
- where and when they were taken
- where you think your child may be now
- where you think they may be taken in future
- details of the person you think may have taken your child
- details of any vehicle owned or used by the person you think may have taken your child
- details of any previous threats to take your child and any previous abductions or attempted abductions
- whether your child has their own passport and whether it is a UK or foreign passport
- the child’s passport number, date and place of issue
- whether your child has dual nationality and more than one passport
- who has custody of your child, including details of any custody proceedings or Court Orders
- your child’s birth certificate
- any agreements or Court Orders which apply to the child
- any other information you think might help the police find your child
If your child has already been taken outside the UK, we may be able to work with Interpol (the International Criminal Police Organization) and police forces in other countries to find them.
If your child has not yet been taken out of the country
If it is not too late, we may be able to help stop your child from being taken out of the country. Contact the police online or by calling 101 and tell us about any threats made or any previous attempts to abduct your child.
If you think your child is likely to be taken abroad within 48 hours, we can contact the National Border Targeting Centre and ask them to alert all points of departure from the UK (like ports and airports), to try to prevent the child being taken out of the country.
This is called a ‘port alert’. This will apply for 28 days, which can give you time to get legal advice. The 28-day period can only be extended by order of a court.
In Scotland, this requires an interdict (a civil court order) saying the child cannot leave the country.
Contact a lawyer
In some cases you may need a court order to prevent your child from being taken out of the country. You should consult a lawyer as soon as possible.
Contact the passport office
If your child does not have a UK passport, the UK passport office (Her Majesty’s Passport Office, HMPO) might be able to stop someone else getting a UK passport for them. Call 0300 222 000 or contact HMPO online.
Contact the other parent’s Embassy, High Commission or Consulate
If your child is eligible for but doesn’t yet have a passport for another country, you can get a lawyer to write to that country’s Embassy, High Commission or Consulate and ask them not to issue a passport for your child. They do not have to agree.
In some circumstances Interpol (the International Criminal Police Organisation) can issue notices that could help find your child if they are missing.
An Interpol Yellow Notice can be circulated to other countries to let them know that your child is missing.
An Interpol Red Notice can be circulated for the person who has abducted your child.
Interpol also maintains a missing children database and details of a missing child can be added to this database at the request of the country they are missing in.
Child Rescue Alert
If you are concerned for the safety of your child, we may be able to issue a Child Rescue Alert (CRA). CRA is a partnership between the police, the press and the public.
A CRA can be launched if:
- the child is in imminent danger of serious harm or death and
- there is enough information available for the public to be able to help
Not all cases will result in a CRA. The decision to launch a CRA is taken by the police.
The Hague Convention on child abduction
The Hague Convention on child abduction is an agreement between certain countries to help return children who have been abducted abroad.
Call the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Consular Directorate on 020 7008 5000 to find out if the country your child has been taken to has signed up to the Convention.
If it has, you can apply for help from the Central Authority responsible for the Convention in your country. This is different depending on whether you live in England or Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
If your child has been taken to a non-Hague Convention country
If your child has been taken to a country which is not signed up to the Hague Convention, you will have to try a different route.
As well as mediation to try to come to an agreement with the other parent, you can start legal proceedings or file for criminal charges. This may be complicated, depending on the law on parental child abduction in the country.
Advice and support
Reunite is a charity which helps people affected by international parental child abduction. They can offer advice and information, help finding a lawyer, mediation between you and your partner and more.
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)
The FCDO can help in various ways, including helping find a lawyer, meeting your child (if the other parent agrees), contacting authorities overseas and helping with translation and travel.