LEGAL EAGLE: My husband has my child in Latvia

My husband is from Latvia and we have a seven-year-old son together. Our son has grown up in the UK.

 In 2014 my husband and I separated and he moved back to Latvia. We agreed that he would come and collect our son from the UK for one month’s contact in Latvia.

 It has now been over a month and my son has not returned. We had been speaking regularly but now my husband is not responding to my calls or emails. What should I do?

Your son is habitually resident in the UK because he has grown up here, and so he is classed as having been abducted by his father.

 By keeping your son abroad for over 28 days without your consent, your husband has committed a criminal offence. You should contact the police straight away to alert them to the problem.

 If you are unsure of the whereabouts of your son in Latvia then Interpol can assist you to locate him.

 Next you should seek the advice of a solicitor. Due to the complexity of this niche area of law you should make sure that you instruct a specialist. A good way of ensuring this is to instruct a solicitor who is an accredited member of the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit Panel. They will be able to assist you to make an application.

 The application is made to the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit (ICACU). To make the application you will need to provide photographs of your child, a copy of their birth certificate, photographs of the person who has taken the child, and a copy of your marriage certificate or divorce decree if you have one.

 There is no fee for this application and legal aid may be available depending on your financial situation. The ICACU will then make an application for immediate return of your son to the UK to your care to the relevant organisation in Latvia.

 This application is made under the 1980 Hague Convention, which is an agreement between countries that aims to ensure the return of abducted children.  

 The case would then be heard in Latvia, however all decisions about the child’s longer term future have to be made in this country. It can take at least six weeks to get a decision, but it may take much longer depending on the circumstances of the case.