What is an international parental child abduction?

A typical example of parental child abduction is when a child is wrongfully taken out of the country by one if its parents, contrary to the other parent’s custody rights. A child can also be retained abroad unlawfully, e.g. following a holiday or access.

A typical example of parental child abduction is when a child is wrongfully taken out of the country by one if its parents, contrary to the other parent’s custody rights. A child can also be retained abroad unlawfully, e.g. following a holiday or access.

The regulations relating to child abduction and retention are the same, and the term “child abduction” therefore covers both. Relocation within Norway is not included.

When the Child Welfare Services have taken over the care of a child, travelling abroad with the child without the consent of the Child Welfare Services will be considered child abduction. You can read more about this under Abduction from the Child Welfare Services.
In most child abduction cases, the child is abducted by one of the parents, although the term also includes abduction by grandparents or relatives. If the child is kidnapped by a stranger, possibly with a demand for a ransom, this is not considered to be child abduction as defined here.

There are cases where a mother or father may lawfully take a child out of the country. For a summary of the Norwegian regulations relating to this, refer to Parental responsibility and travelling abroad with children.

What is classified as child abduction?


In order to be classified as child abduction, the parent left-behind must share parental responsibility and the child must have lived in the country seeking its return.

Parental responsibility

The question of who has custody of a child is usually determined by the laws of the country in which the child is habitually resident. For children resident in Norway, the Children Act, the Child Welfare Act and an agreement between the parents or a court ruling determine who has parental responsibility.

The provisions in the Children Act are as follows:

  • Parents who are married have joint parental responsibility for children they have together. If the parents marry after the child has been born, they will also have joint parental responsibility for the children they have together.
  • Co-habitants have joint parental responsibility for children they have together. This applies to children born after 1 January 2006. Before this date, unmarried parents had to notify the National Population Register that they intended to share custody. If notification has not been submitted, the mother has sole parental responsibility.
  • If the parents have not been married or lived together, the mother has sole parental responsibility. However, the parents may agree to have joint parental responsibility. In order to be valid, such an agreement must be notified to the National Population Register.
  • When parents with joint parental responsibility split up, they will continue to have joint parental responsibility, unless otherwise agreed. If they do not reach an agreement on this, they may request the courts to settle the matter.

You can read more about parental responsibility under Parental responsibility and travelling abroad with children, as well as on the website of the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion and in Chapter 5 of the Children Act.


Place of habitual residence

The decisive factor in deciding whether a child has been abducted is establishing its place of habitual residence. It can sometimes be difficult to decide in which country the child has its place of habitual residence, e.g., if the child has lived in several countries.

Under the Hague Convention, the decisive factor is the child’s actual place of habitual residence. Whether the child is a citizen of the relevant country is not a decisive factor.

International child abduction regulations

Norway is a Party to two international conventions on child abduction; the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 and the European Council Convention of 20 May 1980. Both conventions were incorporated in Norwegian law through Act no. 72 of 8 July 1988 (the Child Abduction Act). There is also a Nordic Convention that covers cases involving the Nordic countries. The Hague Convention is the most practical instrument and is used by most countries.

Assistance from the Norwegian authorities

The assistance provided by the Norwegian authorities depends on whether your child has been abducted to/from a country that is a Party to an international convention on child abduction. The information on these pages has therefore been divided into two main categories; Convention States (countries that are a Party to one of the conventions on child abduction) and Non-Convention States (countries that are not a Party to a convention).

Find out whether the country your child has been abducted to/from is a Party to a convention:

Child abduction from or to Norway

  • The Ministry of Justice and Public Security provides assistance in child abduction cases involving convention countries.
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides assistance in child abduction cases involving non-convention countries.
  • The Norwegian police provide assistance in finding children and abductors and deal with abduction and missing person reports. You can read more about this under Emergency situations and Child abduction is a criminal offence.
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