Dads’ FAQs: Contact and residence (International)

18 October 2012


Questions we have been asked include:

‘Mother is asylum seeker; father UK citizen; wants to marry outside UK; how to best get contact with baby?’

‘Mother has taken son to Australia. Can I make her bring him back?’

‘What is the legal position for an unmarried father in Scotland?’

‘Father living in Scotland; Mother moved to Ireland. Has no address’

While parents who are separated or divorced often try to agree when and where a child can be taken overseas, situations can occur when you don’t see eye to eye. If you find yourself in this distressing scenario, you can consider court action, but bear in mind that this can be incredibly stressful for the child, so it is always best to try to resolve the issue informally.

First, try to access a mediation service, where parents are helped to reach agreement over issues including residence, contact and child support. This can be really helpful and effective – it usually results in both parents feeling more satisfied, and fathers seeing more of their children. The Legal Services Commission explains a bit more on the mediation process on its website or phone the helpline on 0845 345 4 345. It can also point you in the direction of your local publicly-funded family mediation service.

National Family Mediation is the umbrella organisation for services that provide mediation service to separating and divorcing couples. Check out their website or call on 0300 4000 636. The Family Mediators’ Association is the membership body for family mediators – find out more on their website or call 01355 244 594.

Residence orders and taking children overseas

The Government website has guidance on court orders here. If you have a ‘residence order’ from the court, the law says you can take a child out of the UK for up to a month without both parents agreeing. If the other parent hasn’t got a residence order, they can’t take them outside of the UK unless you and everyone else who has parental responsibility agrees. If you have already got a court order about whether or not the child can travel, you can remind your partner of the conditions and try to reach agreement.

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What to do if your child is taken overseas

If things deteriorate and your child is taken abroad against your will, you’ll need certain information to hand, including the child’s full name, date of birth, place of birth, passport number (with date and place of issue), photos and a physical description, details of any rights they have to a foreign passport and details of that passport if it has been issued. Also, you’ll need information about the person who is likely to have taken the child as well as documents such as your child’s birth certificate, your marriage/divorce certificate(s) and any court orders.

Sources of support

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) operates a Child Abduction Section that helps and advises British and dual British nationals caught up in this crisis. Its telephone number is 020 7008 0878 (Monday to Friday 9.30am – 7pm) or 020 7008 1500 (at other times). You can also check out the FCO website child abduction section. If you fear your child has been, or will be abducted, you should contact your local police station.

Reunite is a UK charity specialising in international parental child abduction and provides advice, information and support to parents, family members and guardians who have had a child abducted or who fear child abduction. Reunite also provides advice to parents who may have abducted their child as well as advising on international contact issues. It also offers specialist mediation. Check out the Reunite website or phone its advice line on 01162 556 234.

Some useful addresses

Central Authority for England and Wales
The International Child Abduction and Contact Unit
81 Chancery Lane, London, WC2A 1DD
DX0012 London Chancery Lane
Tel: 020 7911 7047/7045 (10am-4pm); e-mail:

Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Child Abduction Section
Consular Directorate
K4.8 King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH
Tel: 0207 008 0878; Email:; the FCO website

Identity and Passport Service
Tel: 0300 222 0000 between 7.00am and 11.00pm; the IPS website

Central Authority for Scotland
Scottish Executive Justice Department
Private International Law Branch
St Andrews House
Edinburgh, EH1 3DG
Tel: 0131 244 4827; website

Central Authority for Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland Courts Service
Legal Adviser’s Division
Civil and Family Branch
23-27 Oxford Street
Belfast BT1 3LA
Tel: 028 90 328594; website 

National Missing Persons Helpline
Tel: 0500 700 700 (this is a Freefone number from within the United Kingdom. If you are calling from outside the UK, you can reach the Missing Persons Helpline on +44 (0)20 8392 4545; the Missing Persons website.

Permanent Bureau of the Hague Convention on Private International Law
Scheveningseweg 6
2517 KT The Hague
The Netherlands
E-mail: Hague Convention website

The Law Society
113 Chancery Lane
London WC2A 1PL
Tel: 0870 606 6575; E-mail:; Law Society website.

Find links to other Dads’ FAQs articles here.



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