Learning that your client has been removed from the country without your knowledge or consent is extremely alarming. It is therefore imperative to obtain independent, accurate legal advice at the very first opportunity.
The main legislation covering child abduction from Northern Ireland are the 1980 Hague Convention and Brussels II Revisited. Both apply to a long list of countries which have ratified those instruments within their domestic legislation. We can advise you if this applies in your case.
The aim of the legislation is to secure the prompt return of a child wrongfully removed to a foreign country, and to ensure that any issue pertaining to custody or access will be decided upon in the country which is the child’s usual place of residence. The Convention aims to promote international co-operation between nations which may have very differing views and procedures in their internal laws.
Once a parent realises that a child has been removed wrongfully, an application for return of that child should be made through the Central Authority in the country to which the child has been taken. A process will thereafter be instigated to bring about the return of the child to the country from which they have been taken.
Legal Aid funding is currently automatically available for any parent who is seeking the return of a child to Northern Ireland under the Hague Convention, regardless of their financial means – however a parent who has removed a child from their home country may not be so entitled, and will have to apply for Legal Aid in the usual way.
If a child has been removed to a country where either the Hague Convention or Brussels II Revisited do not apply, it is possible to make a Wardship application to the High Court, to assist in seeking the return of the child to Northern Ireland.
Should any of the issues arising from this article apply to you, please contact a member of our family law team either by telephone on 028 91811538 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for urgent legal advice and assistance.