My child lives in a different country and contact is difficult. Is there anything I can do?
There are a vast variety of reasons why a parent may be living in a different country to their child. A parent may have moved overseas for work, it may have been agreed that the child can move to another country, or it may be the aftermath of a child abduction case. Maintaining an international relationship with a child can be achieved very successfully, but in some cases it can be very difficult.
If you live in a different country to your child you can ask for help in putting a contact arrangement in to place. In the majority of cases, any court proceedings relating to your child will need to take place in the country in which your child is habitually resident, and will be governed by the relevant laws and legal process of that country.
It is also worth considering if mediation is an option as a way to avoid using the courts. Mediation could provide the opportunity for you and the other parent to come to an arrangement between the two of you, focused on what is best for your child. For further information please visit the Mediation section on our website.
Please speak with our advice line team who can provide ongoing advice and support based on your specific situation.
Hague or Non-Hague?
If the countries you and your child live in are both signatories to the 1980 Hague Convention, and the Convention is in use between the two countries, then you may be able to make an application for contact under Article 21 of the Hague Convention. This process will help you to start contact proceedings in the country your child is in.
If the 1980 Hague Convention is not in use between the two countries involved, including if one of them is not a signatory or does not accept contact applications, then you will need to look at starting a contact application in the courts of the country where your child lives. Access to legal aid, costs and the law applied will depend on what is in place in that country.
If you are applying to the UK courts for a contact arrangement under Article 21 of the 1980 Hague Convention you will automatically be entitled to legal aid. If you are the respondent to that application legal aid will be decided on the same basis as a domestic case – on a means and merits basis and with evidence of domestic violence. An application from the UK to another country will depend on the legal aid systems in place in that country.
For details of specialist lawyers in the UK and other parts of the world, have a look at our Lawyer’s Listing.
Do you already have a court order setting out contact?
It may be that you already have an order setting out contact granted by the court of a country your child has previously lived in. If so, and you are happy with that contact arrangement, it may be quicker, easier and cheaper to have your current order recognised and enforced in the new country. Depending on the countries involved this may be possible using an international or bi-lateral treaty such as the 1996 Hague Convention.
For example, if you have a UK court order you may be able to have the order recognised in an European Union member state using a piece of European Union legislation known as Brussels IIa. This will not be an option for ever due to Brexit, but is still possible during the transition period until 31st December 2020.
To find out what is possible, contact our advice line and a specialist lawyer for information and advice.