Basic instructions for parents

What is abduction?

It is normally a question of international abduction when the following requirements are met:

  • A child is taken to or retained in a foreign country without the consent of the person who has custody of the child.
  • The child was habitually resident in Finland (nationality is of no consequence).
  • The child is under 16 years of age.

If a child has been abducted to a foreign country

Child abduction matters are dealt with by different authorities depending on the country where the child has been taken.

Contracting States

If your child has been abducted to a State that has acceded to the so-called Hague Convention, first contact the Ministry of Justice. Most European countries, including Russia and the United States of America and Canada are parties to the Hague Convention.

The Ministry of Justice will instruct you how to apply for the return of your child.

Contact Information
Ministry of Justice
International Affairs
P.O.Box 25, 00023 GOVERNMENT
telephone 02951 6001
facsimile (09) 1606 7524
e-mail: central.authority@om.fi

Non-contracting States

If the child has been removed to a non-contracting State,
first contact the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs will help you clear up the abduction.

Contact Information
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Consular Affairs
P.O.Box 176, 00161 Helsinki
telephone (09) 160 05
facsimile (09) 1605 5755
e-mail KPA-10@formin.fi

If the whereabouts of the child is unknown

Sometimes the country to which the child has been removed or the exact whereabouts of the child is not clear. In such cases you should contact your local police. The police can make inquiries as to the whereabouts through the National Bureau of Investigation.
If you know that your child has been abducted to a Contracting State but you do not know his or her exact whereabouts, contact the Ministry of Justice, too.
If you know that your child has been abducted to a non-contracting State but you do not know his or her exact whereabouts, contact the Foreign Ministry, too.

Legal advice is necessary

The process of returning a child is judicially complicated. The parents need not only the assistance of the authorities but also legal advice both in Finland and abroad.

Consult a lawyer. He or she will help you for instance with questions regarding custody and the formulation of the application for the return of your child. He will also represent you in court.

Find out the possibilities for cost-free legal proceedings through the Government Legal Aid Office.

If you fear that your child may be abducted

Experiences of parents

A child abduction often comes as a surprise. Parents who have experienced abduction, however, say that you should be alert to for instance the following signs:

  • changes in the other parent's behaviour, such as increasing arguments over the upbringing of the child
  • a difficult divorce and disagreement on the custody of the child and the right of access
  • plans to move to the other parent's home country together with the child
  • explicit threats of abduction.

Threats of abduction do not necessarily mean that an abduction will actually take place. But they are a definite signal for you to find out about child abduction and how to prevent it. The problem here is, however, that no two abductions are exactly alike.

Precautionary measures

If you suspect that the other parent intends to remove your child from the country without your consent

  • Contact the bailiff or the police. These authorities can immediately take charge of the child, for example at the airport, in order to prevent the child from being removed from the country.
  • Contact your local social authorities. In certain cases a child can urgently be taken into custody in order to prevent abduction.

Where can you get moral support?

An abduction process is always mentally trying. You can get support from different authorities and many civic organisations, such as

Your local social and health authorities

The Finnish Association for Abducted Children(Kaapatut Lapset ry)
Telephone (09) 587 4401

The Association for Mental Health (Suomen Mielenterveysseura ry)
Maistraatinportti 4 A, 00240 Helsinki
telephone (09) 615 516

SOS-center
Maistraatinportti 4 A, 00240 Helsinki
sos crisis telephone 010 19 5202, sos center: (09) 413 50 501, sos-center 09 413 50510,
facsimile (09) 413 50 570