Locating an abducted child
It is frequently the case that where a child has been abducted into the jurisdiction of England and Wales from a country that is a signatory to the Hague Convention 1980, the parent that is left behind will have no idea where the child is living.
In a number of cases I have dealt with, the parent left behind has simply been left a note or sent a text message that the child has been brought to England but the parent refuses to disclose an address. In some cases, the parent suspects the child has been brought to England and Wales. For example, the parents may have a connection to this jurisdiction.
Thankfully, the law provides an effective method of locating a child in such circumstances. A Disclosure Order can be sought against a number of government bodies directing them to disclose the child’s address to the court. I am yet to deal with a case where I have been unable to locate a child.
There is a non-exhaustive list of government bodies that can be made subject to a Disclosure Order. If the child is attending school, the Department for Education will have a record of the child or if the parent is in receipt of benefits, the Department for Work and Pensions should have a record of the parent’s address. If the child is registered with a GP, the Information Centre for Health and Social Care should also have the child on record.
In addition to Disclosure Orders, a Location Order should also be obtained. The Location Order directs the High Court enforcement officers, known as the Tipstaff to locate and seize the child and Respondent parent’s travel documents and hold these until further Order of the court.
The Location Order will contain other provisions to prevent a further removal of the child. For example, providing that the Respondent parent is not to remove the child from England and Wales or apply for travel documents for themselves and the child.
The first crucial and obvious step in an international child abduction case is to locate the child.