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International Issues in Child Cases

3 June 2016

Working through relationship breakdowns is inherently difficult; even more so where there are international elements and children are moved across borders. Access to quick advice can make a significant difference in these cases, and although the information provided here is not exhaustive, it provides a starting point for solicitors working on cases where a child has been removed from their home in the UK without the permission of their parent or guardian.

Please note that the Law Society is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. We will review this page from time to time and welcome suggestions to improve the information below. Please send suggestions to Mary Mugerwa, policy adviser (family law).

International Child Abduction and Contact Unit (ICACU)

The ICACU is the Central Authority in England and Wales under the Hague Convention 1980. The Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty, which seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return.

In January 2016, the ICACU published a request for co-operation form . This form is only to be used by local authorities. A separate form for parents is available for those seeking return of a child taken abroad against their wishes, to make contact with them or to enforce a court order overseas.

The website holds a list of solicitors accredited by ICACU to deal with cases where a child is taken abroad without a parent’s permission.

The website also has some country specific information on parental child abduction where children are abducted oversees.

Hague Convention on Private International Law

The Hague Conference (HCCH) link above provides details for the Central Authority in the countries signed up to the Hague convention.

The HCCH also hosts the International Child Abduction Database . This resource contains helpful reading and useful information such as good practice guides, case law search, summaries, and information on non-Hague countries.

The Action Against Abduction (formerly Parents and Abducted Children Together) have produced a quick description of the Hague Convention and what role it can play in child abduction cases.

Reunite International

Reunite is a UK charity specialising in international parental child abduction and the movement of children across international borders.

The charity will be publishing a suite of guidance notes for parents and guardians following child abduction to a number of countries. These guides explain what options are available when a child has been abducted to certain countries. The first in this series is child abduction and Poland.

The useful links page contains details of other charities, government departments, and organisations that offer advice, information and support on a wide range of subjects.

The international agreements page contains useful information on countries in which the 1980 Hague Convention, the European Convention, and the Revised Brussels II Regulation are in force with the United Kingdom.

Children and Families Across Borders

Children and Families Across Borders (CFAB) is the UK branch of the International Social Service (ISS) network with partners in 120 countries, and the only non-government organisation in the UK set up specifically to deal with children and families cases which involve the UK and one or more other countries. Through its inter-country social work team, CFAB provides guidance and practical support on a range of complex international child protection issues.

CFAB provide a range of inter-country social work services, which include:

  • International assessments
  • Child protection notifications overseas
  • Welfare visits with a child in another country

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The London Diplomatic List holds the addresses and contact details of all Embassies and High Commissions both in and outside London.

What is the difference between an Embassy and a Consulate?

An Embassy is the main diplomatic representation of one country in another. They are usually located in the host country’s capital and provide political links between both countries.

Consulates are responsible for citizens living in the host country, and provide help on a range of matters, including passports and official documents, births, deaths and marriages, as well as help in emergency situations. In cases where a child has been removed to another country without permission, a consulate might be able to assist in a number of ways, including by providing a list of English speaking lawyers in the host country.

The Knowledge Hub is designed to enable local authorities to exchange information about and experience of dealing with international family cases; the Hub also has a library facility, which includes leading cases, Frequently Asked Questions and links to guidance issued by government and the President of the Family Division.

Advice in the country to which a child has been abducted

The International Association of Matrimonial Lawyers has a useful Find a Lawyer tool . You can use this to find a lawyer in the country the child has been abducted to.

Abduction within the European Union

The Europa website contains helpful links for those cases where a child has been abducted to an EU member state. Click on the Ask National Administrators link at the bottom of the page for contact details of the appropriate organisation within each country.

The Europa Justice portal contains some useful information on law and procedure within the member states.

Further guidance

The Local Authority Forum for International Family Casework have recently published a FAQ which solicitors working on international children cases might find useful. The FAQ is available on the Knowledge Hub mentioned above, and is also available to download and read .

The President of the Family Division has published guidance on Liaison between Courts in England and Wales and British Embassies and High Commissions Abroad .


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