Q: “My husband and I have split up and I’ve got custody of our young children, but he’s very angry that I’ve won custody and as he’s a dual-national, I’m worried he might take the kids to his country of origin. How common is that, and how could I get the kids back if he abducted them?”
A: Daisy Organ, head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Child Abduction Section, says: “Parental child abduction can have a devastating emotional impact on all those concerned, particularly the child. If your husband does abduct your child he may be committing a crime.
“As well as the emotional distress, both you and your husband may face severe financial difficulties as you fight for custody of your child through foreign courts.
“People tend to underestimate just how much getting a child back costs, including legal fees overseas and in the UK which may continue to mount even after the child is returned to this country.
“The reality is that while help is available, parental child abduction cases can take years to resolve, with significant impact on those concerned and the strong possibility that the child may never be returned.
“It’s also much harder to return a child from a country that has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention, an international agreement between certain countries which aims to ensure the return of a child who has been abducted by a parent.
“So it’s important that you’re aware of the issue and, if necessary, seek advice and take preventative steps to ensure your child remains in the UK.
“The FCO has seen an 88% increase in the number of parental child abductions and international custody cases in just under a decade.
“In the last year alone the Child Abduction Section fielded an average of four calls per day to its advice line.
“We know that before or during school holidays is one of the most common times for a child to be abducted and so we’ve just launched a campaign to help inform and educate the UK public and encourage parents thinking of abducting their child to think twice before they cause significant distress to both the child and their family.”
l Parents worried their child might be abducted can contact the FCO Child Abduction Section on 020 7008 0878, www.fco.gov.uk/childabduction, or the child abduction charity Reunite on 0116 255 6234.