International Child Contact Arrangements
There are cases where a child is to be taken out of the jurisdiction of England and Wales for the purpose of a contact visit with the other parent. Sometimes this also involves taking the child overseas to visit extended family. The risk or concern is about what happens if the child is not returned. The English family court will always look at the best interest of a child. In this type of international contact case, the court will assess not only the magnitude of risk of breach of the contact order but also the magnitude of the consequence of any breach.
Will my international children contact order to be recognised in the foreign country?
A mirror order is a protective measure so that an English children order is made in similar terms by the foreign country, if this is possible.
This should include provision for the following:
- To invite both parents to sign the children contact order to demonstrate that they both agree and accept its terms and with the intention that they will be bound in both jurisdictions.
- A formal invitation by the English family court to the foreign court to put into effect the parents’ agreement and to adopt the English order as an order of that foreign court.
- The terms of the English children order should be set out.
- It should be reflected that the parent with care is the custodian of the child and the child is not being removed from his/her care or control without an order of the English family court.
- The parents agreeing that the child is under the residual guardianship/residence of the English family court and the English family court has sole jurisdiction.
- The foreign court does not have jurisdiction to decide any questions as to custody, residence or the welfare of the child.
- The parents’ agreement is to be governed by and interpreted I accordance with English law.
- The foreign court is to accept that the agreement is valid and its terms are not contrary to any principles of the foreign state’s law.
- The foreign court will enforce the provisions of the children order/agreement
What promises or assurances can my ex provide to return my children after an overseas visit?
An undertaking is a formal promise to an English court and such promises and agreements can be made in an international child contact case, to include:
- An agreement that the parent with care shall have custody of the children in England and Wales.
- The other parent to have international contact overseas and shall return the children at the end of each visit.
- That parent shall also consent to and place no obstacle in the way of the parent with care at the end of such visit.
- The parent with care shall also be entitled to accompany the child.
- The parents to apply to the court of the foreign country for an international family law order to confirm that the children reside with the parent with care and following any overseas visit/international contact, that the children will be returned.
- The nonresident parent would promise not make any children application other than to the English family court.
- For any contact in England, the parent exercising international contact to lodge (for example with his solicitors) his travel documents and passports during the contact visit.
- To agree and cooperate to obtain information from the foreign country about details of any current passport issued to the children or on which they are named to travel.
- Not to obtain any further passport without consent or permission.
- Subject to the relevant foreign country, to make a formal declaration on oath on the Holy Qur’an before an Iman or other appropriate person to honour the notarised agreement/declaration
How can we help?
Prevention is always better than cure. In any international children and family law case, there is always a risk that a child could be unlawfully retained in a foreign country or unlawfully removed from England and Wales. More information about child abduction can be found here.
If any of these international child contact issues affect you then please call us immediately. It is vital that you obtain specialist international family law advice before taking any steps; and so that an assessment of your case can be undertaken and the risks considered. We can advise you in relation to the family laws of England and Wales. James Maguire is a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers and has over 20 years experience dealing with international contact and child abduction matters. We also work with independent international family lawyers around the world. We are on the US Embassy panel list and other embassies to include British Consulates Overseas.