Child Abduction

The law relating to child abduction is very complicated and is covered under both criminal law and family law. There is also an element of international family law involved if your child has been removed from the country.

Child abduction is the unauthorised removal or retention of a minor from a parent or anyone with legal responsibility for the child and can be committed by parents or other family members; by people known but not related to the child, such as neighbours, friends and acquaintances; and by strangers.

The Child Abduction Act (1984) makes it a criminal offence for anyone “connected with” (e.g. parents, guardians, special guardians or a person with a Child Arrangements Order) a child under the age of 16 to “take or send” that child out of the UK for more than 28 days without the appropriate consent i.e. the consent of any other person who has parental responsibility for that child or a consenting order from the courts.

The same Act makes it a criminal offence for “other persons” (e.g. non-family members) to “take or detain” a child under the age of 16 without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.

The offence of kidnapping exists in England and Wales and Northern Ireland, and is defined at common law as “the taking or carrying away of one person by another, by force or fraud, without the consent of the person taken or carried away and without lawful excuse. It must involve an attack on or loss of that person’s liberty”.

Parental child abduction occurs when a person who is connected to a child takes them away from their country of habitual residence, which is the country they normally reside in, without the permission of either those with parental responsibility or the courts.

If you are concerned that a child may be removed from the jurisdiction or you wish to leave the UK with your child and you do not have the consent of everyone with parental responsibility, you have options available to you so please get in touch.

For further information please call the family department on 0345 241 3100, email us on or visit and follow us on twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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