This article is focused on New Zealand law and explains issues from a Common law perspective.

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How to take action when your child is abducted or about to be abducted by another parent


If you have been granted custody of a child by a New Zealand Family Court (see How to apply for custody of a child) and you believe that your child's other parent is intending to breach your custody rights, you should take immediate action.

If the other parent takes your child to another part of New Zealand or if you are unable to find them, you should contact the Police. But if there is a risk that the child may be taken overseas you will need to make an urgent application to the court for it to prevent this.

How do I apply for a warrant to prevent my child being removed?

You can apply to either a High Court or District Court judge for it to issue a warrant to prevent your child being removed from New Zealand in violation of your custody rights.

The application is made "ex parte", which means that the other party is not given notice of it and is not present when the court hears your application. If the court issues the warrant, the other party may be required to surrender tickets or travel documents to the court.

"CAPPS" listings

It is the practice of the Family Court to make any custody rights conditional on the fact that the child will not be taken from New Zealand without the written consent of the other parent or the court. If this is the case, you may use this order to apply to the Police for a "CAPPS" listing: this means that your child's name will be placed on a computer run by Interpol and will be checked against the names of children leaving the country.

What if my child has already been removed from New Zealand?

If these safeguards fail or your child has already been removed from New Zealand you should apply under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which provides an international framework for the return of children taken from one country to another. However, this option is available only if the other country is both a party to the Convention and a "contracting State" with New Zealand.

How do I apply under the Hague Convention?

To make an application under the Hague Convention you will need to provide proof in writing to the New Zealand Secretary for Justice (who is New Zealand's "Central Authority" for the purpose of the Convention) of all of the following:

  • that the child has been removed to another contracting State
  • that this breached custody rights that you were exercising at the time
  • that the child is habitually resident in New Zealand

The Secretary of Justice will then inform the Central Authority of the other country, who is then obliged to take appropriate measures to seek to have the other parent return the child to New Zealand voluntarily or, if this is not possible, to begin court proceedings to ensure that the child is returned.

Cautionary notes
  • Because of the gravity of the issues involved, you should consult a lawyer immediately. Not only will your lawyer assist in arranging the return of your child, he or she will also attempt to have your custody and access arrangements modified to avoid this threat in the future.

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