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Child Abduction: the need to act quickly

Child Abduction: the need to act quickly

A parent needs to act quickly in cases of child abduction. That is the conclusion to be drawn from a recent decision of the High Court.

Child abduction involves the removal of a child to another country by one parent without the permission of the other parent.  In the case of JJ v PJ, earlier this year the High Court in Ireland refused the application by the father of a 4-year-old boy to return the child to Poland.

The father sought an Order directing his return to Poland under the Hague Convention. The couple had been married in 2012, and the boy was born a few months later. They lived together as a family in Poland until 2014.

The couple separated in August 2014.  Following the involvement of the police, the child was placed with his father for a period of approximately one month, with access to his mother. In October 2014, the mother removed the child from his crèche and brought him to Ireland.

The father did bring some proceedings in the Polish Courts, but it was not until October 2016 that he brought an application to the Irish Courts, seeking the immediate return of the child to Poland. By this time, the little boy was four years old and had been living in Ireland for two years with his mother, her partner, and a new half-sister.

The key issues which arose before the court were:

·         Whether the father had consented to the removal of the child

·         Whether his lack of action meant that he had acquiesced to the removal

·         Whether the fact that the boy was now “well settled” in Ireland was a good defence to the application.

No oral evidence was given, which is not unusual in these cases. In delivering Judgement on 10th February 2017, the High Court judge decided that whilst there was clearly a wrongful removal of the child from Poland to Ireland, the child was now “well settled” within Ireland, and should remain here. One of the key factors behind the Judge’s decision in this case was the unexplained inaction and delay on the father’s part in bringing proceedings for such a long time, highlighting the need for immediate and firm action in the event of “child abduction”.

In terms of drawing lessons from this judgment, it appears to indicate that a parent should:

·         act quickly in starting legal proceedings,

·         maintain the momentum of those proceedings, and

·         avoid any periods of delay as the case progresses.

In any case of actual or anticipated Child Abduction, urgent and swift legal advice should be obtained, and action taken without delay. If you have any enquiries about child abduction or fear your child is in danger of abduction, just phone us on 0404 67540 or email: info@dmburke.ie