Georgina Emerson

Senior Associate Solicitor

DATE PUBLISHED: 19 Mar 2024 LAST UPDATED: 15 Apr 2024

“My Child has been abducted, what should I do?” Navigating Child Abduction Under the 1980 Hague Convention

Finding out that your child has been taken to another country without your consent can be an incredibly distressing and overwhelming experience for any parent or guardian. In such a situation, understanding your rights and the available legal options is crucial.

Fortunately, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction provides a framework for addressing cases of child abduction across borders for countries who have signed up to this.

Here’s what you need to know and steps you can take if your child has been wrongfully removed to or is being wrongfully retained in another country beyond the period agreed:

  1. Stay Calm and Gather Information: While it’s natural to feel panicked and upset, try to stay as calm as possible. Gather any relevant information about the circumstances of your child’s abduction, including when and where they were taken, who took them, and any evidence or documentation you have regarding custody arrangements. Locate their travel documentation and create a list of what the Child has and what is missing i.e. passport, ID card, birth certificates. Do not notify or ‘tip off’ the abducting parent that you are considering making an application to the Court without seeking legal advice first, to reduce any risk of an onward abduction to a different country.
  2. Contact Authorities: Immediately contact your local law enforcement authorities i.e. Police or Central Authority and inform them of the situation. ICACU is the central authority for England and Wales. They can help initiate an investigation and provide guidance on the appropriate steps to take. Additionally, reach out to the Central Authority in your country responsible for handling Hague Convention cases. They can assist you in initiating legal proceedings under the Convention and put you in contact with specialist lawyers. If your child has been taken from the UK, we recommend that you make enquiries with Reunite and ICACU as they are likely going to be able to assist you and point you in the right direction for advice.
  3. Seek Legal Advice: Consult with an experienced family lawyer who specialises in international child abduction. Ellis Jones is on the list of firms who specialise in international child abduction. We can provide valuable guidance on your rights, the legal process, and the specific steps you need to take to pursue the return of your child. For cases involving children being brought into the UK, left-behind parents living overseas and using the 1980 Hague Convention are automatically entitled to Legal Aid to meet all of their legal costs.
  1. File an application at Court without delay: If your child has been abducted to a country that is a signatory to the Hague Convention, you can file an application to the Court in that country requesting that an order is made for the Child’s return.
  2. Consider the option of mediation: It is always sensible to explore the option of Mediation. Mediation may assist you in reaching an agreement with the abducting parent for the Child to be returned without the need for you to engage in stressful court proceedings. We recommend that you contact Reunite, a charity who specialises in the movement of children across international borders. The mediation team at Reunite have a wealth of experience of mediating international cases.
  1. Obtain and provide necessary documentation: Be prepared to provide all relevant documentation to support your case, including court orders, birth certificates, and any evidence demonstrating that the removal or retention of your child was wrongful under the terms of the Hague Convention. Often messages and emails exchanged between parents are key, so it is important to keep a record of everything. Your lawyer will assist you in preparing your application and evidence.
  2. Attend Court Proceedings: If legal proceedings are initiated, make sure to participate actively in the process. Attend all court hearings (in person or by video link if you reside abroad) and provide any additional information or evidence requested by the court.
  3. Consider Counselling and Support: Dealing with the abduction of a child can take a significant emotional toll on parents and families. Consider seeking counselling or support from a mental health professional to help you cope with the stress and uncertainty of the situation.

Remember that navigating the process of child abduction under the Hague Convention can be complex and challenging, but you are not alone. By seeking support from legal professionals, authorities, and support networks, you can take proactive steps to pursue the safe return of your child and ensure that their best interests are protected.

How can Ellis Jones help?

If you need assistance or advice as you believe your Child is at risk of being abducted or you believe your Child has been abducted to England and Wales and you are trying to secure your Child’s return, please do not hesitate to get in contact our specialist lawyers Katie Taft and Georgina Emerson on 01202 636223 or by email to

How can we help?

When you submit this form an email will be sent to the relevant department who will contact you within 48 hours. If you require urgent advice please call 01202 525333.

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