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UK

Country information

UK

1. International Family Mediation

Family mediation, in the United Kingdom, is legally recognised, commonly implemented and encouraged by the State.

International family mediation service is provided by reunite International Child Abduction Centre, which is a recognised charity specialising in international parental child abduction and the movement of children across international borders. The Centre offers a specialist mediation service.

1) The United Kingdom is a Party to the 1980 Hague Convention.

The 1980 Hague Convention: a multilateral treaty which provides procedural guidelines on the return of children and their protection in cases of international parental child abduction.

Contact the Central Authority established in England and Wales for cases of child abduction. Applications may then be addressed for transmission to the appropriate Central Authority elsewhere within the United Kingdom.

2) The United Kingdom is a Party to the 1996 Hague Convention.

The 1996 Hague Convention: a multilateral treaty which determines jurisdiction, applicable law, co-operation in respect of parental responsibility and access rights, as well as civil and public measures for the protection or care of children. 

Contact the Central Authority established in the United Kingdom for cases of dispute concerning cross-border parental responsibilities and rights of contact with children. 

3) The United Kingdom is a Party to the Brussels IIA Regulation.

Brussels IIA: a legal instrument of the European Union to help resolve family disputes involving more than one country, over divorce, all parental responsibilities and, in particular, the custody of children. Brussels IIA is a regulation applicable to all European Union Member states (except Denmark). The regulation prevails over the 1996 Hague Convention in cases where the child’s habitual residence is within a European Union Member state (except Denmark). Please be aware that if a decision on access and/or custody rights is taken by a court from the European Union, the regulation foresees that a State Party to the 1996 Hague Convention must recognise the court decision.

Contact the Central Authority established in the United Kingdom designated under the 1996 Hague Convention for cases of dispute concerning cross-border parental responsibilities and rights of contact with children.

You can determine whether countries relevant to your case are Parties, or not, to the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, the 1996 Hague Convention on Child Protection and/or Brussels IIA (except Denmark) in order to locate the appropriate central authority. As for the 1980 Hague Convention, you can check whether the Convention is in force between two specific States in the Spreadsheet showing acceptances of accessions to the Child Abduction Convention.

Children and Families Across Borders (CFAB) is a charity organisation and a UK member of the International Social Service (ISS), whose social workers, along with their specially trained case workers, provide professional support for families overseas struggling with child care. CFAB also assesses care options for children overseas who may have family in the UK. Please call their Advice Line if you have an international children and family enquiry and need assistance, before making a referral.

The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) provides civil and criminal legal aid and advice in England and Wales. To get free and confidential advice, please check here and after contact its Civil Legal Advice (CLA) service.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) is responsible for managing legal aid in Scotland. You can use a Solicitor Finder to find your nearest solicitor who offers legal aid or other legal advice providers funded by SLAB.

The Legal Services Agency Northern Ireland (LSANI) administers the statutory legal aid scheme, represents and regulates the solicitors' profession in Northern Ireland. Whilst the LSANI is not a legal advice centre and cannot offer legal advice, it maintains a Solicitors Directory, which can be used to search for a solicitor in Northern Ireland.

The reunite International Child Abduction Centre recognised as the charity specialising in international parental child abduction and the movement of children across international borders also provides advice, information and support to parents who fear their child may be at risk of abduction and assist and advise in international contact issues and cases of ´permission to remove´.

Relate offers help with relationships, family life, parenting, separation, divorce and help for children and young people. Face-to-face counselling is available at their Centres all around the UK, but they also offer counselling services via telephone, email and Live Chat service.

Family Action is a national charity providing practical, emotional and financial support to those who are experiencing poverty, disadvantage and social isolation across England. Whilst the Family Action Head Office is based in North London, they deliver their services from local offices across England.

Family Support NI Website provides details of a wide range of services provided by statutory, voluntary and community organisations to support families in Northern Ireland. This information will help families, young people, children and practitioners to find different local services.

4. Child Welfare Services

The European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC) is a non-profit association of independent children’s rights institutions (click on the United Kingdom in the list of country-members).

Cafcass a non-departmental public body that represents children in family court cases in England. They make sure that children's voices are heard and decisions are taken in their best interests. Cafcass works in the areas of divorce and separation, care proceedings and adoption. You can contact them directly here. You can also find Cafcass equivalents in other regions: NI Guardian Ad Litem Agency (NIGALA) in Northern Ireland, Children’s Hearings Scotland and CAFCASS Cymru in Wales.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) supports parents and families in caring for their children. They provide therapeutic services to help children move on from abuse across the UK. NSPCC is the only UK children's charity with statutory powers (i.e. they can take action to safeguard children at risk of abuse). You can find here services for children and families.

Home-Start is a national family support charity that helps parents build better lives for their children. They propose emotional and practical support as well as help in case of social isolation, disability or illness. Please find your local Home-Start here.

Action for Children supports parents, babies and pre-school children, help young carers, disabled children and their families providing parental programmes, mediation, family intervention projects, residential care, etc. Find out here about their support groups, where to get information and how to get involved with Action for Children near you.

The website of “Missing Children Europe” provides helpful information and the List of all organisations around Europe working in the realm of child disappearances.

Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) is the official agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales for domestic social action. CSAN works for vulnerable people across England and Wales, providing support for families and children, the elderly, the homeless, the disabled, and prisoners. You can find members of the CSAN for the sector “Children and Families”.

5. Support to Bi-national Couples, Cross-cultural and Migrant Families

Migrant Help is a national charity offering support, guidance and accommodation to vulnerable migrants across the UK. They propose advice and guidance for asylum seekers, specialist support for victims of trafficking, European migrant advice service, etc. You can find here a Migrant Help office in your area.

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) is an independent national charity providing free of charge direct legal advice and assistance to immigrants. You can contact them directly through this link.

The CoupleConnection is a relationship support service that is run by OnePlusOne, the relationship research organisation. The site provides a wide range of articles, self-assessment tools, activities, quizzes, exercises and courses to help you to improve and strengthen your relationship. You can find here mixed race relationship advice and support for mixed families, mixed race children and people in interracial relationships.  

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