You (or your legal adviser) should contact the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (see Introduction for details). A member of staff will take brief details over the telephone and will send you a questionnaire. Alternatively, you can complete a copy of the Application (Questionnaire) available on this website (see Notes for Guidance). The completed Questionnaire should be accompanied by copies of photographs of the missing child and of the person who has taken the child and any other relevant information which may explain the circumstances of the removal/retention and which may help in locating the child.
The case must fulfil the requirements of one of the two Conventions. The main criteria are as follows:
- the child must be under 16
- the child must have been habitually resident in the United Kingdom prior to the abduction
- the applicant must have been exercising rights of residence (formerly known as “custody”) in relation to the child
- the abduction must have taken place after one of the Conventions came into force between the United Kingdom and the country to which the child has been taken. See Countries in the Conventions.
- an application may only be made under the European Convention if the applicant has an order made by a court in Northern Ireland.
The Questionnaire and additional details will form the basis of a formal application for return of the child or enforcement of rights of residence and contact with the child. The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service will arrange for the application to be translated, if necessary, and will forward it by fax and post to the Central Authority of the country to which the child has been taken.
The speed and manner in which the case is conducted in the country to which the child has been taken are entirely dependent upon the internal procedures of that country. Every country has exclusive jurisdiction within its own territory. The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service provides a point of contact between the applicant or solicitor and the Central Authority of each country but it cannot force another country to decide cases or enforce laws in a certain way. However, it will do all it can to press for a swift resolution of the matter and will keep you or your solicitor informed of progress.