The summer period is always the perfect time to take a break from every day life and have a holiday with the children. When children are travelling abroad with one parent owing to their parents having separated, this can become an extremely stressful time for the parent that remains at home. Our previous article, ‘School Holidays and Taking Children Abroad’ gives guidance if there are anxieties about children being returned. 

It is usually the case that the parent travelling with the children returns to England following their travels. However, in some cases, the travelling parent may decide not to return to England with the children and instead retains them in the foreign country, particularly if they have pre-existing links with the country involved. This is done without the knowledge or consent of the parent who is left behind in England. At times like this, it can appear hopeless and it may seem easier to wait to see if the abducting parent will change their mind and come back with the children. However, there are legal remedies available to the left behind parent and specialist legal advice should be sought at the earliest opportunity.

The remedy available will depend on which country the children have been wrongfully retained in. If the children have been taken to a country with which the UK is a signatory to a relevant international treaty (such as The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980) then the left behind parent can seek the children’s return using this treaty. We can advise you about the countries with which the UK is a signatory.  However, this is not to say that if there is no relevant treaty applicable with the country to which your children have been taken that you cannot take any action to recover your children. The English Court will assist you in recovering the children were it can, although the process can be more complex. In these circumstances an urgent application needs to be made to the High Court in England requesting the Court to exercise its vast powers under what is called the Inherent Jurisdiction, such as making the children a Ward of the Court and ordering the abducting parent to return the children.

Once obtained, these Orders will be brought to the attention of the abducting parent. In many cases the mere existence of such orders is sufficient to secure the return of the children. Once the children are returned, the Court’ assistance can be sought to safeguard against a further abduction in the future and what the future care arrangements relating to the children should be.

Unfortunately, difficulties can arise where the precise location or contact details of the abducting parent are unknown to the left behind or where the abducting parent refuses to comply with the Order served upon them. In such instances the assistance of the foreign court may also be necessary. At TV Edwards we have good contacts with foreign lawyers and we can work with them on your behalf if action in the other country becomes necessary.

These situations are understandably every parent’ worst nightmare, however in such circumstances it is important to not panic and to not give up hope. You should always seek specialist legal advice without delay and at TV Edwards we would be happy to advise you through the process and support you at every stage.

At TV Edwards we have a dedicated team of solicitors who specialise in advising parents in international children matters including preventing the abduction of children both within England and Wales as well as internationally and seeking the return of abducted children. If you have an international children law issue that you need assistance with then please do not hesitate to contact us on 0203 440 8000 or

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