Parents should enforce travel bans on children if they fear they may be abducted, lawyers say
DUBAI // Lawyers in child abduction cases are advising parents to apply for travel bans on their children, to stop them being taken overseas to live if relationships break down.
The ban is being used more often by parents who fear their spouses could take the children out of the country without warning.
“Michael”, a Briton who moved to Dubai five years ago with his wife and two children, aged 11 and 8, has not seen them for a year after his former wife took them for a trip home.
“My wife was on holiday in the UK and messaged me to say she was not coming back,” he said. “She was keeping the children and filing for divorce.
“I was shocked and bewildered. It felt as if the ground had fallen away beneath my feet.
“The fact that she didn’t speak to me and just planned it behind my back is what hurt the most. The one thing I regret is not seeing the signs and putting something in place.”
The incident was reported to Interpol because the children were no longer in UAE jurisdiction.
“If anyone is going through any kind of relationship problem and there are children involved, I would strongly advise getting a travel ban as a safety net,” Michael said.
He was granted custody of the children after the divorce was finalised, and expects to be reunited with them in Dubai within a couple of months.
› Steps to take if you think your spouse is planning to leave the country with your child or children:
• Act quickly and obtain any evidence that you have of your suspicions, ie, messages, emails, Facebook, etc, and have this translated into Arabic.
• Appoint and provide a lawyer with all the evidence and documents. The lawyer will in turn make an application to the local UAE court for a judge to apply a travel restriction on the child/ren to prevent them from leaving the country; they will be stopped at immigration in any UAE airport.
• Your lawyer can contact the local court and make an emergency application for a custody order based on your concerns. The court will then contact your spouse to discuss the matter further and refer the matter to a judge to review the evidence and the concerns of the parent and impose an order.
• Speak to your and your spouse’s local embassy or consulate to report your concerns and also provide them with any evidence that you have and any evidence of any court orders/travel bans that you are applying for. The embassy or consulate could possibly ontact the embassy of the country your spouse is from and inform them.
* Source: Alderson and Associates, Dubai
Parental child abduction is a criminal offence in the UAE, which has the highest rate of divorce in the GCC, Dubai Statistics Centre data shows.
“At least 20 per cent of cases we deal with, or about five a year, are related to child custody and alleged parental child abduction,” said Samara Mir of Alderson and Associates in Dubai, who was trained in UK and UAE law.
“This has suddenly increased over the last six months but it is difficult to say why. If you are concerned that your wife or husband may be threatening to leave the country with a child then you can go to any local court to apply for a travel ban.”
The order requires marriage and birth certificates, and written reasons why there are concerns that a child could be abducted.
A judge could also ask for a Dh50,000 guarantee.
To have the ban lifted, a parent would have to apply to the court with reasons why they need to take the child abroad.
Such cases can leave an emotional mark on families and are often played out in long legal battles.
Anne Jackson, a life coach who offers counselling for people in these situations, has established a support group called Leaves Dubai, where people can share their experiences and offer advice.
“There are so many extra considerations to be taken into account when facing marriage difficulties as an expat,” Ms Jackson said.
“These considerations can lead to many more fears in this situation, which can lead to irrational decision-making.”
There are no statistics for parental child abduction in the UAE, but in the US each year more than 203,000 children, or 78 per cent of all missing children, are abducted by family member, usually a parent.
The UK’s foreign and commonwealth office says mothers were responsible for 70 per cent of abductions of British children globally.
There were 477 British children abducted by parents and taken abroad last year, up from 226 in 2005.
Since 2009, divorces in the UAE have increased by 40 per cent for expatriate couples, 7 per cent for Emirati couples and 25 per cent for Emiratis married to expatriates.
Updated: October 12, 2015 04:00 AM