Child abduction and parenting or custody issues
International parental child abductions and parenting or custody cases involving Canadian children in foreign countries are increasing.
Canadian officials abroad work closely with authorities in other countries to advocate for the safety and well-being of Canadian children outside Canada.
If a Canadian child outside Canada is a victim of abduction, sexual assault, neglect, physical violence or abuse, or forced marriage, you should report it to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or, if you are in Canada, to the Emergency Watch and Response Centre.
Canadian custody orders
If there is a possibility that your child could be kept outside Canada due to a parenting or custody dispute, talk to a lawyer.
- Consider getting a parenting or custody agreement, unless there is already a parenting or custody order.
- Ask the lawyer to help enforce your Canadian parenting or custody order or agreement locally. You may also need to seek a new parenting or custody order or agreement from a local court under local family law.
- Check that your parenting or custody order or agreement prohibits your child from travelling outside Canada without the permission of both parents.
Your Canadian parenting or custody order or agreement may not automatically be recognized in the country to which your child could be abducted, but it may still be useful in proving your custodial or parenting rights to authorities in Canada.
If you don’t know where your child has been taken, start by informing the local police.
If you know where your child is or may be taken, check your rights and those of your child with the country’s embassy or consulate in Canada. In many cases, you or your child may not be allowed to leave the country once you have arrived. You may also be faced with different exit controls than those in Canada.
A child must have their own passport to travel to another country. Both parents will likely need to participate in getting their child’s passport, unless one parent clearly has sole custody or decision-making responsibility for the child.
If you are concerned that an application for a Canadian passport may be made on your child’s behalf without your consent, you can ask the Passport Program to add your child’s name to the Passport Program System Lookout List.
If your child was born or lived outside Canada, or if one parent is a citizen of another country, your child may be a citizen of another country. If so, you can ask the government of the other country not to issue a passport or visa to your child. Every foreign government has its own passport policy, so it may choose to ignore your request.
If you have child abduction or parenting or custody issues outside Canada
If a parenting or custody dispute arises while your child is in another country, or if your child or a child you know is missing and may have been abducted, contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre.
Canadian officials can
- help you contact officials in the country where your child is abducted
- ask officials in that country to inquire into the safety and well-being of your child
- give you information about the country, including its local customs and practices
- give you a list of local lawyers, notaries and legal translation services
- refer you to general information on travelling to the country and make sure Canadian consular officials can provide consular services at your destination.
- try to contact the other parent and help you to communicate with them, if the other parent refuses to speak with you directly
- help you contact organizations in Canada and abroad that help find missing children
Canadian government officials abroad cannot
- give you legal advice, act as a mediator, act as your lawyer or represent you in court
- pay your legal fees or other expenses
- intervene in your private legal matters or in any legal processes in the other country
- enforce a Canadian parenting or custody agreement in the other country
- force another country to make any decision in your parenting or custody case
- force another country to apply its own laws in a particular way
- take actions that may violate the laws of the other country
- help you re-abduct your child, even if your child is Canadian
- take physical or legal charge of your child
- Federal Income Support for Parents of Murdered or Missing Children (Employment and Social Development Canada)
- Canada’s Missing (Canadian Police Centre for Missing and Exploited Children)
Report a problem on this page
- Date modified: