Sunday, January 30, 2011

Passport applications and child abductions

Child abduction is a rare but serious crime. It happens when a child is taken out of the country without consent (often by one parent against the wishes of the other). If your child is at risk, the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) may be able to help.

The law on taking a child out of the country

It is a crime for anyone connected with a child under 16 to take or send that child out of the UK without appropriate consent. This is set out in the Child Abduction Act 1984.
To explain:
  • the people ‘connected with a child’ are the child’s parents, guardians and people with a residence order or who have parental responsibility
  • ‘appropriate consent’ is the consent of the mother, the father (if he has parental responsibility), the guardian and anyone with a residence order or parental responsibility, or the leave (permission) of the court

Fathers and parental responsibility

You can find more detailed information on parental responsibility and what it means in ‘Parental rights and responsibilities’.
In general, a child's father has automatic parental responsibility only if he is or has been married to the child's mother. However, since
  • 15 April 2002 in Northern Ireland
  • 1 December 2003 in England and Wales
  • 4 May 2006 in Scotland
a father also has parental responsibility if he jointly registers the birth with the child’s mother. He may also be granted parental responsibility by the court or by written agreement with the child’s mother.

Residence orders

Someone with a residence order may take or send the child out of the UK without consent for up to a month at a time.
A residence order is issued under Section 8 of the Children’s Act 1989. It confirms who a child is to live with. The person named in the order automatically gets parental responsibility if they did not already have it, but not sole parental responsibility. This means they cannot:
  • take the child out of the country for more than one month
  • change the child’s name without the consent of everyone with parental responsibility, as explained above, or a court order

How the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) can help prevent child abduction

Normally IPS will issue a passport for a child if the application is made by:
  • either parent (provided the parent making the application has parental responsibility, as explained above)
  • another person with parental responsibility
If you have a court order that forbids the issue of a passport without your consent or the consent of the court, you should let IPS know. In these cases IPS will not issue a passport for the child if the application comes from anyone else claiming to have parental responsibility.
The following types of court order can be used:
  • a prohibited steps order made under the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 or the Children Act 1989
  • an interdict made under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995
  • an order confirming that the child's removal from the country is against the wishes of the court
  • a residence order under any of the three Acts above, which has been made in your favour
  • an order awarding you custody of the child or care and control over the child
  • an order stating that you must give your consent before the child can be removed from the country
  • an order upholding your objections to the child having a passport or leaving the country
If you don't have a court order you can still ask IPS not to issue a passport for your child, provided you are the child’s mother and both of the following are true:
  • you have not been married to the child's father
  • the father has not acquired parental responsibility
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