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Child Abduction - Introduction

Central Business Unit, Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (in relation to child abduction matters)

This website aims to give practical advice on how and where to seek help in relation to child abduction and the enforcement of orders relating to your children within the European Union. Although it is addressed mainly to parents, it will be equally valuable to anyone who has a residence or care order for a child. It will also assist anyone who has or is seeking contact/access to a child living overseas.

As evidenced by recent news articles in the media international disputes concerning children continue to increase. They are always distressing and difficult for all concerned, especially the children. Very often cases are played out in the full glare of the media. Each parent may believe that he or she has the right to have the child living with them or to have contact/access with the child.

Often a parent will have court orders providing for residence or contact. In general disputes about arrangements for children are decided by the courts of the country in which the child is located unless the parents agree. The nationality of the child will have little bearing on where the case is heard. As of 1 March 2005 some court orders made in Northern Ireland and orders made in other European countries will be enforceable in countries which are members of the European Union (except Denmark). Court orders made by family courts in Northern Ireland are not otherwise directly enforceable outside the United Kingdom.

Parents whose children are abducted or who have orders made by the courts in Northern Ireland for contact with their children living overseas hold high expectations of what the government and other agencies can do to help them. While help is available, the arrangements with overseas countries are complicated and you are strongly advised to contact a solicitor or a Citizens Advice Bureau for legal advice. For details of solicitors with particular experience in this specialist field you may wish to contact the Law Society. Procedural advice may be given by the Central Business Unit of the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service in Belfast; Consular Division of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, the Passport Agency or Reunite: International Child Abduction Centre which is a charity specialising in assisting parents. For contact information for all these organisations, please see: Useful Addresses and Links for contact details.

Parents who have brought their children to Northern Ireland from abroad and who are concerned as to the situation in which this action places them and their children may also approach the organisations listed in: Useful Addresses and Links for contact details to obtain information about the implications of their situation. If you are in this position you should also consider obtaining legal advice so that the situation can be resolved.

The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service is open from Monday to Friday (9 am to 5 pm) and the contact details for child abduction matters are:

Operational Policy Branch
Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service
4th Floor
Laganside House
23 - 27 Oxford Street
Belfast BT1 3LA

E-mail: internationalchildabduction@courtsni.gov.uk