Globalisation and the ease of travel (Covid aside) have given rise to a preponderance of international romantic partnerships. Many of us will have spent Christmas navigating the thorny dilemmas of shared family time, shuttling in different directions between relatives and in-laws; a challenging enough mission without the additional complexities of long-distance travel when other cities and countries form part of the mix.
At Ronald Fletcher Baker LLP, we are regularly consulted by foreign spouses seeking clarification on their legal rights as well as UK nationals panicking about the risk of a foreign partner abducting their child/ren to that partner’s country of origin as an afterthought after the breakdown of a relationship.
Unfortunately, it is usually only once people find themselves trapped and isolated in a foreign country that the full implications of relocating and having a child abroad or with a foreign partner are fully grasped. Although legal safeguards are available, such concerns are valid and demand serious reflection. Careful planning in the event of separation can save clients much anguish and legal costs later down the line.
Whilst Brexit has destabilised many families and brought questions of residency and leave to remain into sharp relief, many of those affected are painfully unaware of the equally onerous if not more severe restrictions imposed by the 1980/ 1996 Hague Convention ('the 1996 Convention', '96HC') which came into force over 40 years ago, long before Brexit was born.
It would have been a reasonable assumption that freedom of movement in a pre-Brexit Europe would have enabled parents to at least travel easily with their child within European borders. Legally speaking, this is not the case. Provided matters remain amicable on separation, parents are free to make any child agreements they wish between themselves. However, major difficulties lie in domestic violence and high conflict cases.
Without the prior consent of your partner, you’d need to obtain a Court Order to take your children home even to visit their grandparents abroad otherwise, you run the risk of being accused of violating international law. Should you remove your child/ren from their country of residence without either consent or a court order in place, you will be committing a criminal offence which carries serious legal and practical implications. Many unwitting parents find themselves entangled in extremely costly and complex litigation as a consequence of being woefully uninformed about the law.
Countries where the 1980 Hague Convention applies
Recently, Tunisia was joined as a Member State under Council Decision (EU) 2022/2450 on 8 December 2022.
A full list of contracting Member states can be found at:
Whilst defences to a Hague Convention application are available, these are limited and construed narrowly by the English Courts. Defending an abduction claim can run into hundred of thousands of pounds.
On the flip side, if you are the nervous party with reason to suspect your partner is planning to remove your child/ren, we are here to advise you on the steps to take to pre-empt a potential abduction. In either case, it is crucial to seek proper legal advice.
Whilst all logic and reason tend to fly out of the window when that appealing romantic prospect comes along, there is little romantic about a cross border breakdown and forewarned is forearmed.