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Child Abduction - Enforcement of Contact/Access Orders

Within the European Union

From 1 March 2005 some court orders made in Northern Ireland dealing with parental responsibility will be enforceable throughout the European Union (with the exception of Denmark). The legislation which applies is Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 and is commonly referred to as Revised Brussels II. It is also known as Brussels II bis or Brussels II(a). If the order you are seeking to enforce was made in proceedings commenced after 1 March 2005 it will be directly enforceable throughout the European Union (other than Denmark). If the order was made in proceedings commenced prior to that date it may be enforceable under the transitional provisions of the Regulation.

The Revised Brussels II Regulation has also introduced a fairer and more streamlined process for dealing with parental abductions within Europe. The new process is based on the Hague Convention but narrows the grounds on which a return can be refused and gives greater prominence to hearing the child's views and the views of the applicant parent in these proceedings. The Revised Brussels II Regulation also provides for the State from which the child has been abducted to have the final say on whether the child should be returned. If your child is abducted within the European Union (other than Denmark), the Revised Brussels II Regulation will apply to your case.

Outside the European Union but within Europe

Although the Revised Brussels II Regulation came into force on 1 March 2005, the European Convention remains in force and continues to apply between the United Kingdom and member countries outside the European Union (other than Denmark). The Convention works on the principle of the mutual recognition and enforcement of orders made in the contracting states. Accordingly, there must be in existence an order of a court or other authority with the necessary jurisdiction in a European Convention country, which can be recognised and enforced in the requesting state.

Outside Europe

There are no provisions for enforcing contact/access orders between Northern Ireland and countries outside Europe. Enforcement may be possible in some countries under article 21 of the Hague Convention.

If your child lives in a Hague Convention country which is outside the European Union and you are being prevented from having contact with them you should contact The Central Authority in Northern Ireland, which is Central Business Unit, Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service. They will be able to provide advice and assistance about making an application under Article 21 of the Hague Convention for contact. If you are also pursuing a Hague Convention return application it is important to ensure that nothing you do could be understood to be acquiescence to the child remaining in the country to which they have been taken.

It is not usually possible to register Northern Ireland court orders in overseas countries including Commonwealth countries.