It can be a criminal offence (under the Child Abduction Act 1984) in certain circumstances to take a child out of the United Kingdom without the express consent of the other parent. It is therefor best to make sure that both parents consent before taking a child outwith the UK.
So what happens if your child is taken out of the UK, or is kept in another country , without your permission? The answer will depend on the purpose of the trip outwith the UK and whether they have been taken to a 'Hague Convention' country.
A large number of countries are signatories to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Convention tells us when the removal to, or retention of a child in, another country is to be considered 'wrongful'. The Convention operates to secure the prompt return of an abducted child to the Country where he or she was 'habitually resident'. The intention is that if there is a dispute between parents about parental rights and responsibilities in relation to a child (which include where and with whom a child should live) the country where the child is 'habitually resident' is the appropriate country/court to deal with it.
The Convention has been adopted by signatory Countries so that your child can be returned to the Country they were wrongfully removed from. The Courts where they are habitually resident can then decide, if it is an issue, which country and with whom they are to live.
On occasion a child will not be returned to their country of origin in terms of the Convention. This may happen if the removal or retention is found not to be wrongful (i.e. permission was given by the other parent, or the other parent acquiesced to it). In some countries, if the child has become settled ,a significant amount of time has passed and other circumstances apply the child will not be returned. Equally if there is a grave risk of physical or psychological harm to the child in the country the child was removed from, he or she may not be returned.
If the country your child is taken to is not a signatory to the Hague Convention or the European Convention, things are a lot more complicated. Your only recourse may be through the local police and domestic legal process of that country, or through the UK's Central Authorities.
As a matter of practice, separated parents should keep a copy of their child's passport and ask for a contact address in the Country they are being taken to.
If you have concerns that your child is being retained in a foreign country, or have been served with a petition for return of a child, you should get in touch with us immediately.