Abducted girl returns from Pakistan

Return of six year old from Pakistan highlights issue of international children cases.

Recent press reports regarding Atiya Anjum – Wilkinson have highlighted the growing issue of international children cases. Six year old Atiya was born in Manchester to a British mother and a Pakistani father. When Atiya's parents separated in 2009 her father took her from England to Pakistan without her mother's consent. For the next three years Atiya's mother Gemma Wilkinson fought through the legal system and diplomatic avenues for Atiya's return to the UK, finally achieving this late last month when Atiya flew back to Manchester.

Cases involving the international movement of children from one country to another are increasingly common and are now seen by the family department at Crosse & Crosse on a regular basis.  We are one of a handful of legal firms in the Country with lawyers holding specialist accreditation in this field. We are also members of the Home Office panel of specialist solicitors receiving referrals from foreign governments to assist in these cases.

Typically the problem arises where the child's parents originate from different countries, as in Atiya's case. If the marriage breaks down and the parents separate one of them may wish to return to live in their home country and to take the child with them. If the child is taken without the other parent's consent this can amount to "child abduction" and legal steps can be taken to return the child.

Atiya's case was unusual in that it was her father rather than her mother who took her abroad without consent. The majority of cases we see at Crosse & Crosse involve the child being taken abroad by the mother, without the father's consent. Often after the marriage has broken down the mother wishes to return to her home country to be near her own family and support networks. The father however is often concerned that he will lose contact with his child. The mother may be unaware that if she takes the child without the father's consent there may be significant consequences.

These international children cases are becoming increasingly common as the world becomes smaller and increasingly couples get together from different parts of the world. The internet and increased foreign travel have made it easier for people to form and maintain these relationships. Changes in European Union legislation allowing migrant workers to freely cross borders and work abroad have also been a factor.

Here at Crosse & Crosse we have wide experience representing parents in these cases. We act for parents wishing to move the child abroad, and for the parents that are "left behind" and seeking return of the child. In certain cases the children themselves can have legal representation and our specialist Children Panel lawyers have experience of representing children in these circumstances. We have acted for parents and children from all over the world, from the USA to Eastern Europe, Australia and the Middle East.

From experience we know that these cases always represent an incredibly difficult situation for the parents and children involved, with seemingly impossible choices to be made. Atiya's case was unusual in that it took as long as three years. Fortunately in many cases there are urgent legal steps that can be taken to resolve the issues within a matter of months and it is often possible to reach a negotiated agreement between the parents to resolve the issue of where the child should live and ensure that the child maintains contact and a relationship with both parents.

For further information please contact Wendy Kemp This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Sabina Smith This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in our Family team.

The Guardian article regarding the case can be viewd here