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Families in Turmoil Over Brexit Fears
Fears over the fall-out from Brexit have opened deep rifts in families of different nationalities, sparking expectations from a leading law firm of a surge in parental abductions.
Cara Nuttall, a partner at JMW Solicitors who specialises in children matters, including abductions, said her team has seen a spike in inquiries from worried parents amid growing uncertainty about Brexit and the future of free movement.
The fragile climate has led to more disputes about travel plans and applications for dual citizenship, as well as increasing fears that parents may not return their children home from overseas visits during the summer.
Ms Nuttall said the number of inquiries of this nature rocketed by 30 per cent in the three months to the end of June compared with the previous quarter.
She said: “One year on from the referendum, it’s clear that Brexit is having an impact on family life where one or both parents is from the EU.
“We have seen a significant increase over recent weeks in the number of parents in rocky relationships or who are already separated or divorced seeking advice about their rights to relocate, or to stop the other parent from travelling because they are scared they may not come back with the children.
“We’ve also seen a rise in disputes about applications for foreign nationality and travel documents for children entitled to dual citizenship in fragile international families.
“Some foreign parents feel strongly they want to maximise their chances of being able to return home if things don’t work out, while British parents are concerned about them doing exactly that, and want to make it harder for them to take the children should they wish to do so.”
Ms Nuttall said the summer holidays are always a high-risk time for parental abductions but that the Brexit factor has added a new dimension this year.
“Most cases of parental abduction arise in international families where the couple disagree about where and with whom their children should live following a separation,” she said.
“Children are often taken overseas by their mother or father to visit relatives or simply for a holiday, and are then not returned home after months of cloak-and-dagger planning by a parent.
“Sadly, we expect to see even more of these cases involving international families between now and September,” she said.
“It’s clear that the uncertainty caused by Brexit has led to discussions in these families about the future, leaving some parents feeling extremely vulnerable when they realise they have diverging views.
“It seems some foreign nationals are not certain they want to remain here in the long-term, especially against a backdrop of anti-European feeling. They’re worried that if they don’t go soon, they may end up stuck here if they want to see their children grow up.
“The inevitable temptation is to consider taking matters into their own hands, and just go.
“For the ‘left-behind’ parent, uncertainty about the final Brexit agreement means the efficiency of any court orders cannot currently be guaranteed to secure their long-term relationships with their children should they allow them to go.
“Some are ruling out giving consent, but that merely increases the risk that the other parent, feeling desperate, will go regardless.
“I’ve had a large number of calls from parents in the past few weeks beside themselves with worry that their children will be abducted over the summer, and wanting to know what they can do.”
Ms Nuttall said there is currently a strong framework in place to deal with parental abductions in Europe, and to recognise and enforce orders made by any court within the EU regarding arrangements for children.
But she warned: “These will fall away when we leave the EU. We simply do not know what the replacement measures will be, nor how well they will work.”
She said that, while it is understandable people are worried amid the uncertainty, acting in haste is no answer and a unilateral decision to move a child abroad can be a criminal and civil offence.
It can also destroy the child-parent relationship for years to come as well as ruining the parent’s case to relocate with their children.
There are currently between 400 and 600 cases of child abduction from the UK each year.
For more information:
0161 828 1981
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