Locating a child

This page provides information on how to make an application to locate a child whose whereabouts are unknown, and the powers of the court to disclose this information.

How can I locate my child within the UK?

If there are ongoing proceedings for a section 8 order or wardship, the court has the power to issue an order for any person to disclose the whereabouts of a child if his whereabouts are not known. The information on whereabouts will be disclosed to the court. This power is contained under section 33 Family Act 1986 and the order is an Order for the Disclosure of Information as to the Whereabouts of a Child. It is possible to apply for this order on an emergency basis with one day notice.

It is also possible to apply for this without notice if there is reason to believe that notifying the other party might lead to the removal of the child.

How do I apply for this order?

Any person with a legitimate interest in the court proceedings may apply for the order.

The application can be made using a C4 form. You should support your application with evidence.

What happens after an order is made?

The court often issues a form to the Department of Work and Pensions and/or HM Revenue and Customs asking for information.

The person or authority who is named in the order must disclose to the court, in the way specified in the order, all the information that he has about the whereabouts of a child. This may include, for example, details about the use of a telephone number including the subscriber’s name, billing and installation address, outgoing and incoming calls and the location of where the phone has been used.

The court will then decide what to do with the information. The information cannot be disclosed to the parties of the court without the court’s permission. 

The person or authority named in the order may apply to court within 7 days of service to have the order discharged or varied. 

The order will have a penal notice attached for failure to comply. Breach of any part of the order may be contempt of court resulting in imprisonment, a fine or seizure of assets.

What if the person caring for the child is in a refuge?

Where a parent has taken a child to stay at a refuge, the police should not be directed to disclose the address other than to the Court manager. The Court will therefore be aware of where the child is, and that the child is safe but will not disclose the whereabouts of the child to the other party. This is to protect the safety of all residents of the refuge.