The Child Abduction Act 1984

Every year, thousands of children are abducted by a parent or family member, causing immense distress and trauma for both the child and the left-behind parent. In the United Kingdom, the Child Abduction Act of 1984 was enacted to address this issue and provide legal recourse for those affected by parental abduction. In this article, we explore the details of the Child Abduction Act 1984 and how it protects children and their families.

If your child has been abducted and you need help and support to ensure the safe return of your child, talk to our specialist child abduction solicitors. If the cost of advice is a concern, Legal Aid may be available.

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If you need to speak with someone you will always receive a friendly welcome if you telephone between the hours of 9am-5pm but if we are closed, you can  request a callback. We will call you back as near to your requested time as possible.

What is Parental Abduction?

Definition and Prevalence

Child abduction, also known as parental abduction, is the act of one parent taking a child without the consent of the other parent or legal guardian. This can occur during a custody dispute, after a separation or divorce, or in cases where one parent wishes to relocate with the child without the other parent’s permission.

There were approximately 1,122 child abduction offences recorded by the police in England and Wales in 2022/23 (Source: Statista), an increase when compared with the previous year.

Child abduction can be classified into three major categories

  1. Abduction — this involves instances where a child is transported or sent overseas without receiving the necessary authorisation. Currently, in the UK, this is the only category that can be legally classified as a criminal offence.
  2. Wrongful retention — this occurs when a child is detained in a foreign nation after an international trip without receiving the required consent.
  3. Threat of abduction — this covers circumstances where there exists a possibility that a child might be transported or sent overseas without the necessary authorisation.

Impact on Children and Families

Child abduction can have a devastating impact on both the child and the left-behind parent. Children may experience emotional trauma, confusion, and feelings of abandonment. They may also be exposed to dangerous or harmful situations while in the care of the abducting parent.

For the left-behind parent, the sudden loss of their child can cause immense distress and anxiety. They may also face financial and legal challenges in trying to locate and reunite with their child.

The Child Abduction Act 1984

Overview and Purpose

The Child Abduction Act 1984 was enacted to address the issue of parental abduction and provide legal recourse for those affected. The act makes it a criminal offence for a parent or family member to take a child under the age of 16 out of the UK without the consent of the other parent or legal guardian.

The act also applies to cases where a child is taken within the UK and kept away from the left-behind parent without their consent. This is known as “internal abduction.”

Penalties and Punishments

Under the Child Abduction Act 1984, the maximum penalty for parental abduction is seven years in prison. However, the severity of the punishment may vary depending on the circumstances of the case.

In addition to criminal charges, the left-behind parent may also seek civil remedies, such as a Court Order for the return of the child or contact arrangements.

Exceptions to the Act

There are certain exceptions to the Child Abduction Act 1984, which may be used as a defence in court. These include:

  • The left-behind parent has given consent for the child to be taken out of the UK.
  • The abducting parent has a Court Order allowing them to take the child out of the UK.
  • The child is over the age of 16 and has given their own consent to be taken out of the UK.

Seeking Legal Help

Importance of Legal Representation

If you are facing a case of child abduction, it is crucial to seek legal representation from a qualified child abduction solicitor. Tyrer Roxburgh specialise in cases of child abduction and have the knowledge and experience to guide you through the legal process.

Our child abduction solicitors can help you understand your rights and options, gather evidence, and represent you in Court. We can also assist in negotiating with the abducting parent and seeking the return of your child.

We pride ourselves on being friendly and approachable so if you need advice from one of our friendly solicitors, please do get in touch by calling 0208 889 3319 or via one of the options below.

The first introductory call is free and enables you to outline your circumstances and for us to explain how we can help. Our team are friendly and approachable and are always happy to answer your questions.

If you have a question about our services, please use our online form to send us an email.

If you need to speak with someone you will always receive a friendly welcome if you telephone between the hours of 9am-5pm but if we are closed, you can  request a callback. We will call you back as near to your requested time as possible.