1. My child has been taken abroad without my permission. What shall I do?Contact the relevant central authority (in UK, ICACU, in Spain - Ministerio de Justicia), and Reunite International Child Abduction Centre for advice (www.reunite.org)
2. What documents are going to be required to support any court action?Copies of the child’s birth certificate, your marriage certificate (if relevant), divorce order (again, if relevant) and any existing court orders relating to your child.
3. What if I know my child has been taken abroad, but I don’t know where?This may involve Interpol, tipstaff officers and/or private detectives. If necessary, seek court orders to require banks, schools, telecoms companies, etc. to reveal the location of the abducting parent.
4. Once you know the child’s location, what then?Court proceedings may then take place in the country where the child has been abducted to. They may be an order made to make the child "ward or court" and an order made to stop the child leaving the jurisdiction. The child's passport will also most likely be ceased.
There are guidelines over the amount of time a return order or decision should take (If signatories of Hague Convention / Brussels 2) . From experience, I can advise that this may not be adhered to and you could be facing a long, emotional, expensive legal battle. My advice would be IF AT ALL POSSIBLE, try to resolve matters amicably. Possibly with the help of mediation and counselling (ask Reunite about this). You are both parents EQUALLY. Your children are not possessions !
5. What happens if court solution is required (Hague)?Firstly, do your homework on who should be representing you. There are specialist lawyers in this area of law and can be very expensive. There are also self proclaimed advocates / heroes / warriors who will take prey on parents in such a vulnerable position. Take extreme care. They cannot provide the easy solution that they might claim to make and can cause more harm than good.
Ask if you will be entitled to legal aid assistance. One of the difficult decisions to make is who to instruct for representation. Reunite unfortunately cannot recommend specific legal professionals.
The abducting parent will be required by the court to appear before it to confirm whether s/he is willing to return the child. If not, the court will then set a date on which the return petition will be heard (which will include hearing evidence from the abducting parent as well as the parent left behind).
6. Will my child’s opinion be sought?Provided the child is of any age that her views should be taken into account, this may be a requirement. The court may order social services / CAFCASS to interview the child (with interpreters if necessary) and – although this would not happen in all countries – the judge may also want to see and speak to the child. This is NOT a reason to coach and manipulate your child. Parental alienation IS an abuse. Your child should NEVER be subjected to this.
7. How long will it take for the court to give its decision?Every case is different, but some countries do not adhere to the "strict" time limits that international law dictates. Some countries are VERY poor at enforcing the international rules that govern parental child abduction.
8. What if the court rules my child should be returned?If the child is not then voluntarily handed back to you, a request may be needed for the police to remove the child from the abducting parent and deliver him/her to you. Even if the abducting parent appeals the return order.
The contents of this blog post are the thoughts of the writer