The number of parental child abductions is rising fast with the rate nearly doubling in the last decade. Recent figures released by the government have shown an increase of just under 88 per cent in the Foreign Office (FCO) data on parental child abductions since 2003. This is believed to underestimate the actual number however, as many cases go unreported.
It is thought that the rise reflects a lack of understanding of the law by members of the public rather than a deliberate attempt by estranged parents to flout it. The Foreign Office is launching a campaign to combat the issue.
FCO Data On Parental Child Abductions
The FCO now receives an average of four calls per day to its specialist advice line and nearly half of these calls relate to new cases. The data revealed that around 270 children were abducted by parents in 2003 while 2012 has seen nearly 500 abducted.
The nature of the abductions is also increasingly international; in 2003 the cases were spread across 51 countries, now that figure has expanded to 84 countries. This represents a particular problem when it comes to managing cases through the legal system because many countries have not signed up to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction which provides an international framework for dealing with these cases. The number of abductions to non-Hague countries rose by over 200 per cent between 2001 and 2011.
Understanding Parental Child Abduction
Recent surveys show that the public perception of the issue of parental child abduction is seriously misguided:
· 24 per cent of people do not know it is illegal to take a child abroad without the consent of others with parental responsibility.
· 50 per cent of people believe that the Government can simply intervene if a child is abducted but the reality is that it can be a hugely complex process which varies considerably by jurisdiction.
· 62 per cent of people are unaware that parents must meet the legal costs of recovering a child from non-Hague countries and not the Government.
· 74 per cent of people believe that fathers are more likely to abduct a child but figures from Reunite International show that 70 per cent of cases of parental child abduction are carried out by mothers.
· 71 per cent of the public believe that most abductions are to the Middle East, India and Pakistan but the reality is that abductions occur across all backgrounds.
The lack of public awareness is a serious issue for the Government but it is understandable given the legal complexities. The FCO campaign should help to address this issue but parents who are uncertain should seek legal advice to ensure that they understand their own position. If you need advice in relation to parental child abduction, please contact our Family Law Department by telephone on 0207 611 4848 or complete either the Ask a Question or Email Us section of our website.