We are delighted that Nicola Harries, Sean Hilton and Victoria Batstone have been accepted as specialist international family lawyers to be listed on the Reunite website. Reunite is an independent and impartial charity that supports parents, guardians and family members, and raises the profile of international parental child abduction and international family matters globally.
Our family team has a wealth of experience in international matters generally but also specifically in relation to international parental child abduction. Both Nicola Harries and Victoria Batstone in particular have acted for parents involved in these circumstances. Victoria is also a founding member of the Child Abduction Lawyers Association.
International parental abduction results when one parent removes a child to another country without the permission of the other parent (or anyone who has parental responsibility or rights of custody at the time). This can occur in a number of different scenarios, including overstaying on a holiday in England without the other parent’s express consent.
There are several international conventions in place between England and many other countries, for example, the Hague Convention on Child Abduction 1980. Where a child is removed to England and Wales from a country that is a signatory to this convention, an urgent High Court application can be made for the child’s return to their country of habitual residence. These applications are specialist, often very urgent, applications that require detailed, up to date, knowledge of the law and procedure.
In limited circumstances, the alleged “abducting parent” may be able to defend an application for the child’s return. The defences are very limited so it is vital that any parent who is the recipient of an application for their child’s return seeks specialist legal advice, as soon as practicably possible.
Examples of the types of applications Nicola and Victoria have been involved with include:-
- Acting for the father in an application for the return of two children to Australia in circumstances where the mother had refused to return them after an agreed extended stay in England. The stay was initially agreed for 8 weeks but this was later extended (by agreement), to one year. At some point during the stay, the mother had decided that neither she nor the children would be returning to Australia, and thus was in breach of the agreement she had reached with the children’s father. This case was eventually determined by the Supreme Court of England and Wales and led to a new concept of “anticipatory retention”.
- Acting for the father in an application for the return of his young daughter to Israel. The family had moved to England with the child but after six weeks the parent’s marriage broke down and the father returned to Israel. The mother argued that the father had consented to the child’s removal from Israel, that the child had become habitually resident in England and that the child would be at risk of harm in the event of a return. The High Court disagreed and ordered the child’s return to Israel. The mother appealed to the Court of Appeal but they endorsed the return order, albeit for different reasons. She then successfully appealed to the Supreme Court who overturned the previous order. Unfortunately for the father the child was not returned to Israel - a rare example of successfully defending an application.
- Securing court orders for the police to remove the young child of a diplomat from a plane at Heathrow where the abducting parent was in transit with the child to the US.
- Coordinating with the FBI as they arrested a fugitive parent who had absconded from the US with her son after committing various crimes. High Court orders were obtained to recover the child and have him temporarily cared for by a US family in the UK before arranging his return to his father in the US.
- Representing a child in the Court of Appeal to successfully oppose her own return to her mother at whose hands she had suffered emotional abuse. The child was allowed to remain with her father.
- Assisting a parent whose child had been abducted from England to an EU country in making an application for their return via the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit.
- Making urgent applications in the High Court acting for various parents whose children were abducted into England for disclosure of their children’s whereabouts (known as a location order). Such applications have been made against the NHS, the Department for Work and Pensions, credit score organisations, friends and family of the abducting parent, telephone/mobile companies and education authorities to secure information about the whereabouts of the abducted children to enable their recovery and eventual return.
- Securing children’s safety and whereabouts by requesting orders that the child and the alleged abducting parents’ travel documents are seized by the police and held by the Court pending a determination.
If you require advice on child abduction matters please do not hesitate to contact us.