“Mum on the Run” – Parental Child Abduction and the Law

The media today are reporting on the case of a mother, Rebecca Minnock who has gone into hiding with her 3 year old son Ethan after a Judge in an English Court ruled that Ethan should live with his father.

It has been reported that Ethan has lived with his mother since his parents separated in February 2013, but in March 2013 legal proceedings began when his father applied for a Contact Order.

Last month, the Court ruled that Ethan should live with his father after finding that Ms Minnock had made false allegations and obstructed contact between father and son.

Usually, any Court proceedings involving a child are kept confidential. However, following the disappearance of Ethan, the Judge in this case took the unusual step of allowing the facts of this case and the names of the parties and child to be reported by the media in an effort to help find Ethan.

This is not the normal type of child abduction case to make the news. We are more likely to read or hear about media pleas to find children who have been abducted by strangers.

It therefore might surprise you to hear that most child abduction cases in the UK do not involve strangers.   Parental child abduction has become a more common problem in recent years than most of us would like to believe.

 It is unclear whether Ethan has been removed from the UK. It is becoming increasing common for children who are caught up in the relationship disputes of their parents, to be removed from their country they live in to another country by one parent without the consent of the other.

Parental child abduction is an issue which has been addressed by the Courts on an international level.  The 1980 ‘Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction’ is an agreement between various countries which aims to ensure the return of an abducted child to the country where he or she normally lives, so that issues of residence (custody) and contact (access) can be decided by the Courts of that country.

It is important for any parent to be aware of their rights under The Hague Convention and the legal proceedings they can issue to ensure the return of their child should the unthinkable happen.

You should seek legal advice as soon as possible if you are worried that:

  • Your child has been abducted from overseas to Northern Ireland
  • Your child has been abducted from Northern Ireland and taken abroad
  • You are being accused of abducting your child.

We are always keen to hear your views on current hot topics such as this so please feel free to leave a comment or contact us about this issue.