This article describes what is considered child abduction and what regulations apply, and also gives information about various forms of sanctions and means to prevent abduction or help bring an abducted child back home. (Artikkelen på norsk her.)

What is child abduction?

When a child is taken illegally out of the country or is held back abroad by one of its parents, it is defined as child abduction.

Likewise, taking a child abroad after it has been taken into care by the child welfare authorities is also child abduction.

Removing a child from one parent within the borders of Norway is not considered child abduction, and different regulations apply. For the rules and sanctions concerning child abduction to come into force it is a prerequisite that it is an abduction to or from another country than Norway.

In most child abduction cases the child is abducted by one or both parents. However, the term is also used where grandparents or other close relatives or friends abduct the child. It is not considered child abduction if strangers take the child to another country by means of kidnapping etc.

Regulations on child abduction

To be described as child abduction the remaining parent must have part in the custody and the child must have a fixed abode in the country demanding the child back.

Norway has ratified two conventions on child abduction: The Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 and The European Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions concerning Custody of Children and on Restoration of Custody of Children of 20 May 1980. Both of these conventions were ratified by Norway by law of 8 July 1988 no. 72 (text in Norwegian only). There is also a convention between the Nordic countries; Act relating to the recognition and enforcement of Nordic judgments in civil cases of 1 January 1978.

As the number of countries that have ratified The Hague Convention is higher, it is the most practical convention to go by and it also contributes to a faster return of illegally abducted children.

Assistance from Norwegian authorities

The kind of assistance available from Norwegian authorities depends on whether or not the child has been abducted to or from a country that Norway cooperates with through one of the conventions mentioned above. There is a list of countries that Norway cooperates with here.

The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (BUFDIR) assists with child abduction cases where a child has been abducted to or from a country that Norway has collaboration with. If there is no cooperation with the country the child has been taken to or from, the Foreign Ministry is the right authority.

The police will assist both with trying to prevent child abduction, and with localization of a child or abductor. The police receive reports and missing person-notifications. If a child is in danger of being abducted from Norway the police must be contacted as quickly as possible, as they may intervene in a child abduction situation by contacting relevant airports etc. to prevent the child from leaving the country. The same applies if a child does not return to Norway after a legal holiday or visit abroad. Contact the police as quickly as possible to report the child missing.

Child abduction is a criminal offence

Abducting a child from a parent or other legal custodian is a criminal offence in accordance with the Norwegian Criminal Code Section 261.

The Criminal Code Section 261 applies if a parent with legal custody – alone or joint – illegally abducts a child from the country, and likewise if a parent withholds the child after a legal visit or holiday abroad. The maximum sentence for child abduction is a fine or imprisonment up to 2 years. Gross care evasion is punishable by maximum 6 years. In accordance with the Criminal Code Section 261 second paragraph the evaluation of whether the care evasion is gross shall especially take into consideration how the strain of the abduction has affected the child.

Exit permit restrictions

If you are concerned that a child may be abducted by a parent who has custody (alone or joint), if e.g. it is uncertain whether the child would return after a holiday, you may request the court to issue an exit permit restriction that prohibits travelling abroad. A restriction may be issued for a specific trip or as a general prohibition.

An estimation of whether the uncertainty about a child returning is big enough to entitle an exit permit restriction must include if the trip is to a country that Norway has an extradition treaty with or not. It should also be taken into consideration what may be the motive for withholding the child and whether a return ticket has been acquired.

Exit permit restrictions may be established as an individual court case or as part of a custodial case, or a case about permanent abode or visitation. The court may also issue a temporary decision until it has reached a final decision.

In case there is a high risk of abduction and it is urgent to establish exit permit restrictions the police may issue a temporary exit permit until the case is tried before the court.

Our advice

It is important to respond quickly on suspicion of child abduction and establish an overview of the situation as soon as you can. It may be wise to consult a lawyer specialising in child law, and always involve the right authorities. For assistance on missing persons and tracking – contact the police. Contact the BUFDIR if the child has been abducted to a country that has an extradition treaty with Norway. Contact the Foreign ministry if the child has been abducted to somewhere that has not ratified such a treaty. If there is a need for exit permit restrictions and / or need for changes in the child’s parental custody, abode or visitation – bring the case before the courts.

The family lawyers in Dalan advokatfirma have considerable experience with cases concerning child abduction and regularly attend courses keeping us up-to-date on international regulations on child abduction.

Maria Cabrera Stråtveit

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