Travel.State.Gov > International Parental Child Abduction > Country Information > United Kingdom International Parental Child Abduction Information
33 Nine Elms Lane
London, SW11 7US
Telephone: +(44)(20) 7499-9000
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(44)(20) 7499-9000
Fax: +(44) (20) 7891-3845
U.S. Consulate General Edinburgh, Scotland
3 Regent Terrace,
Edinburgh EH7 5BW
Telephone: 013-1556-8315 / from the United States: 011 (44)(13) 1556-8315
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 020-7499-9000 / from the United States: 011 (44)(20) 7499-9000
Fax: 0131-557-6023 /from the United States: 011 (44) 131-557-6023
U.S. Consulate General Belfast, Northern Ireland
Danesfort House, 223 Stranmillis Road,
Belfast BT9 5GR
Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Telephone: 028-9038-6100 / from the United States: 011 (44)(28) 9038-6100
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 01253-501106 / from the United States: 011 (44) 1253-501106
Fax: 028-9068-1301 / from the United States: 011 (44)(28) 9068-1301
The United Kingdom (UK) and the United States have been treaty partners under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention) since July 1, 1988.
For information concerning travel to the UK, including information about the location of the U.S. Embassy, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, entry/exit requirements, safety and security, crime, medical facilities and health information, traffic safety, road conditions and aviation safety, please see country-specific information for the UK.
The U.S. Department of State reports statistics and compliance information for individual countries in the Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA). The report is located here.
The U.S. Department of State serves as the U.S. Central Authority (USCA) for the Hague Abduction Convention. In this capacity, the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, Directorate for Overseas Citizens Services, Office of Children's Issues facilitates the submission of applications under the Hague Abduction Convention for the return of, or access to, children located in countries that are U.S. treaty partners, including the UK. Parents are strongly encouraged to contact the Department of State for assistance prior to initiating the Hague process directly with the foreign Central Authority.
United States Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children's
SA-17, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Outside the United States or Canada: 1-202-501-4444
The UK has separate Hague Abduction Convention central authorities for England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Isle of Man. The Central Authority for England and Wales is the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit. The Central Authority for Scotland is the European Union (EU) and International Law Branch. The Central Authority for Northern Ireland is the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service, Central Business Unit. The Central Authority for the Isle of Man is the Attorney General. All four central authorities have an administrative role in processing Hague Abduction Convention applications.
The UK Central Authority can be reached at:
England and Wales:
The International Child Abduction and Contact Unit
Office of the Official Solicitor
Victory House, 30-34 Kingsway
London WC2B 6EX
DX 141423 Bloomsbury 7
Tel: +44 (20) 3681-2608
Fax: +44 (20) 3681-2763
EU & International Law Branch
2W St. Andrew's House
Edinburgh EH1 3DG
Tel: +44 (131) 244-4827
Fax: +44 (131) 244-4848
Northern Ireland Courts & Tribunals Service
Central Business Unit
23-27 Oxford Street
Belfast BT1 3LA
Northern Ireland, UK
Tel: +44 (28) 9072-8808
Fax: +44 (28) 9072-8945
Isle of Man:
Attorney General's Chambers
3rd Floor, St. Mary's Court
Isle of Man IM1 1EU
To initiate a Hague case for return of, or access to, a child in the UK, parents may submit a Hague application to the USCA or the relevant central authority in the UK. The USCA is available to answer questions about the Hague application process, to forward a completed application to the relevant central authority in the UK, and to subsequently monitor its progress through the foreign administrative and legal processes.
There are no fees for filing Hague applications with either the U.S. or the UK central authorities. All four central authorities in the UK assign a solicitor (attorney) to represent parents or legal guardians making an application for return or access under the Hague Abduction Convention. For applications for return, all four central authorities provide pro bono (no fee) legal assistance. In access cases, applicants are responsible for legal fees if they do not qualify for legal aid. Additional costs may include airplane tickets for court appearances and for the return of the child, if so ordered.
A parent or legal guardian may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for return to the United States of a child abducted to, or wrongfully retained in, the UK. The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand whether the Convention is an available civil remedy and can provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.
A person may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for access to a child living in the UK. The criteria for acceptance of a Hague access application vary from country to country. The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand country-specific criteria and provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.
Parents do not need to retain a private solicitor in the UK to submit a Hague Abduction Convention application for return or access. All four of the central authorities in the UK will assign a solicitor to represent parents making these applications. Parents may still retain a private solicitor to pursue their applications. However, if that solicitor is not included on the relevant central authority's list of contracting solicitors, the Central Authority will not open a case, and it may be difficult for the USCA to monitor the application.
The U.S. Embassy in London, UK, posts a list of attorneys in England and Wales, including those who specialize in family law.
The U.S. Consulate General in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, posts a list of attorneys.
For information on attorneys in Northern Ireland, parents can contact the U.S. Consulate General in Belfast using the contact information listed on the Consulate's website.
For information on attorneys on the Isle of Man, parents can contact the Attorney General's Office by calling +44 (0) 1624 685452 or by consulting the lawyers list of Reunite International.
This list is provided as a courtesy service only and does not constitute an endorsement of any individual attorney. The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the persons or firms included in this list. Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the lawyers.
All four central authorities in the UK encourage mediation for all Hague Abduction Convention applications, and both parties are given the opportunity to come to a mutual agreement before the application goes to court. In general, the parties' solicitors are responsible for facilitating mediation. The UK central authorities, except for the Isle of Man, do not play an active role in this process.
While travelling in a foreign country, you are subject to the laws of that country. It is important for parents to understand that, although a left-behind parent in the United States may have custody or visitation rights pursuant to a U.S. custody order, that order may not be valid and enforceable in the country in which the child is located. For this reason, we strongly encourage you to speak to a local attorney if planning to remove a child from a foreign country without the consent of the other parent. Attempts to remove your child to the United States may:
The U.S. government cannot interfere with another country’s court or law enforcement system.
To understand the legal effect of a U.S. order in a foreign country, a parent should consult with a local attorney in the country in which the child is located.
For information about hiring an attorney abroad, see our section on Retaining a Foreign Attorney.
Although we cannot recommend an attorney to you, most U.S. Embassies have lists of attorneys available online. Please visit the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for a full listing.
For more information on consular assistance for U.S. citizens arrested abroad, please see our website.
Country officers are available to speak with you Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. For assistance with an abduction in progress or any emergency situation that occurs after normal business hours, on weekends, or federal holidays, please call toll free at 1-888-407-4747. See all contact information.
DISCLAIMER: The information in this flyer is provided for general information only, is not intended to be legal advice, and may change without notice. Questions involving interpretation of law should be addressed to an attorney licensed in the relevant jurisdiction.