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Child Abduction within the UK

Scotland and Northern Ireland have different legal systems from England and Wales, and the law in Scotland and Northern Ireland differs in some respects. In the past these legal differences caused conflicts of jurisdiction where proceedings could be brought in respect of the same child in different parts of the United Kingdom at the same time. Orders made in one court were not necessarily recognised or enforceable in other courts which made it possible for parents to ignore an order obtained in one part of the United Kingdom, remove the child to another part and institute fresh proceedings there in the hope of obtaining a different result.

Part I of the Family Law Act of 1986 was passed to deal with these problems. The Act aims to prevent competing proceedings being commenced in two different parts of the United Kingdom at the same time. It also allows orders made in one part of the United Kingdom to be recognised and enforceable in all parts. This includes the Isle of Man but does not include the Channel Islands nor the Overseas Dependent Territories.

The party wishing to have an order enforced in another part of the United Kingdom should apply to the court which made the order. That court will then forward the papers to the appropriate court in the other part of the United Kingdom, which will then register it.

A court in one part of the country may order that a child may not be removed from the United Kingdom or part of it which the court may specify. If the child is removed in contravention of an order, the child has to be returned from where he or she was taken and only the court which made the original order may give consent to the child being removed from the United Kingdom.

A court may also order passports to be surrendered, the disclosure of the child's whereabouts or particulars of other proceedings concerning him or her and may give special authority to an officer of the court or constable to ensure the recovery of the child.

The Crown Dependencies and the Dependent Territories

The United Kingdom is responsible for 3 Crown Dependencies and 14 Overseas Dependent Territories.

The Crown Dependencies are the Isle of Man and the islands of Guernsey and Jersey know collectively as the Channel Islands. The Overseas Dependent Territories are Anguilla; Bermuda; the British Antarctic Territory; the British Virgin Islands; the Cayman Islands; Gibraltar; Monserrat; Pitcairn Island, St Helena and dependencies (Asuncion and Tristan Da Cahuna) South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Orders made in the Isle of Man are recognised and enforceable throughout the United Kingdom and vice versa but orders made in the Channel Islands and the Dependant Territories are not. However, such orders are likely to be given considerable weight in the respective courts.

The Hague Convention has been extended to the Isle of Man, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, Monserat and Bermuda. Local specialist legal advice should be taken in the event of an abduction between the Channel Islands or the Dependant Territories and other parts of the United Kingdom.