United Kingdom

When it ratified the Hague Convention on Child Abduction and the European Custody Convention, the United Kingdom declared that it would only agree to pay costs arising from the Convention – that is to say, for legal counsel or legal proceedings - insofar as these are covered by its own legal aid and legal advice system.

Despite this reservation, and in view of the fact that a public fund was set up and approved by the Central Authority which is also available to persons who do not have UK citizenship, Swiss nationals who apply for the return of a child are not required to pay the costs of the proceedings and legal counsel. This support (legal aid) is not means-tested. Having studied the application, if the Central Authority is of the opinion that the requirements for the return of a child are met, it will then appoint a solicitor versed in the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. The solicitor is responsible for obtaining instructions from the applicant, gathering proof, instituting legal proceedings and representing the applicant before the competent court, the Family Division of the High Court. In most cases, applicants do not have to appear personally before the court but may be represented by their solicitor.

The United Kingdom reserves the right to end this practice in future if a change in the law should affect the availability of public funding for abduction cases.

For cases involving the protection of visitation rights, however, legal aid is not automatically granted. In the United Kingdom legal aid can only be granted when applicants meet the financial criteria which entitle them to receive legal aid under UK law

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