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What is a stranded spouse?

Stranded spouses is the term used when a family travels abroad on holiday and one spouse is intentionally left behind either with or without the child(ren). One spouse deliberately removes the other spouse's and/or the child(ren)’s passport and returns to the UK. Spouses are often separated from their children and are unable to return because of immigration restrictions. They are at higher risk of violence, exploitation, and social stigma. 

In this scenario an application under the Inherent Jurisdiction can be made in the High Court and a child can become a Ward of the Court. This means the High Court becomes the legal guardian of the child and welfare decisions can be made on behalf of the child. For example, the Court can grant permission for passport renewal in absence of a parent’s consent. Wardship proceedings are recognised with greater weight in other countries. The Court will assist the stranded spouse and children to regain entry back into the UK.

If the child is in the United Kingdom a Passport order or Location order would normally be issued. A Location order is needed when the location of the child is unknown. The Court has the power to issue an order against a person or organisation for example school, GP and DWP to disclose the whereabouts of a child. Once located, the Tipstaff, who are officers of the Court will then seize the passports and keep them in their possession until further order. A Passport order gives permission to the Tipstaff to collect the child’s passports immediately. The court will grant these orders in circumstance where the child’s location is unknown and there is a risk that the child will be removed from the United Kingdom. The Location order and Passport order will prevent further removal and secure the child’s location.

The Court will then need to consider any issues of jurisdiction i.e., which court in which Country should make decisions about a child which can be quite complex. In England, the Court will make a decision in the best interest of the child, will be guided the Welfare Checklist. The checklist contains seven element that the court must consider when reaching a decision. These are the:

  1.  ascertainable wishes and feeling of the child concerned.
  2. the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs.
  3.  the likely effect on the child of any change in circumstance.
  4. the child’s sex, background and any characteristic the court considers relevant.
  5. any harm the child has suffered or may be at risk of suffering.
  6.  the capability of each parent meeting the child needs.
  7. the range of powers available to the court.

Brethertons has three specialist accredited Child Abduction Lawyers Simon Craddock, Gemma Kelsey, and Kim Lehal who will be more than happy to advise you.

Brethertons are here to answer any questions that you may have about International Child Abduction and Children and Domestic Violence. Please do not hesitate to contact us on 01788 579579 or