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Seek and Find Orders

What are Seek and Find Orders

A Seek and Find Order is a court order made to locate a child´s whereabouts. These orders are also sometimes referred to as seek and locate orders. The order can be applied for under section 33 of the Family Law Act 1986. This act allows the court to order any person who it has reason to believe may have relevant information about the location of a child, to disclose that information to the court. The relevant part of the Family Law Act reads:

33. Power to order disclosure of child´s whereabouts.

  1. Where in proceedings for or relating to a [Part I order] in respect of a child there is not available to the court adequate information as to where the child is, the court may order any person who it has reason to believe may have relevant information to disclose it to the court.
  2. A person shall not be excused from complying with an order under subsection (1) above by reason that to do so may incriminate him or his spouse of an offence; but a statement or admission made in compliance with such an order shall not be admissible in evidence against either of them in proceedings for any offence other than perjury.
  3. A court in Scotland before which proceedings are pending for the enforcement of an order [relating to parental responsibilities or parental rights in relation to] a child made outside the United Kingdom which is recognised in Scotland shall have the same powers as it would have under subsection (1) above if the order were its own.

When to apply for this order?

If you are seeking a contact order, residence or some other court order in respect of your children and do not know where they are.

Who might know where my children are?

The immediately obvious people are those who know the person who is caring for the children. This may include their family and friends or their employer. You should be prepared to suggest to the court who should be "named in the order" to provide information about their address. The parent (or other adults) who you believe the children to be with may well, and are likely to have given their new address details to public bodies (if not now, then in the near future). Examples include:

Also be prepared to be specific at to what "directions" you want the court to make. As an example, within the application form, if you know the bank account of the adult/parent with whom the child are with, as an example, you might ask that the court specifically directs that "NatWest Bank must divulge details of the address for Mr or Mrs X, date of birth XX/XX/XXXX whose account is held at Shrewsbury City Centre Branch. Similarly, you might ask that the court directs that their employer provides their new address details, or that the children´s school does etc."

What other information should I provide?

If you have the other parent´s mobile number (and they have kept this, and are simply not returning your calls), you may ask that the court direct the police to use the parent´s mobile number to trace their whereabouts (which can be done with modern technology).

What form to apply to Court?

You would use Form C4. Within the C4 Form, you should list the names and contact details for any people who you believe may know of your child´s whereabouts. This might include your ex-partner´s family members, their employer, or even organisations such as GP surgeries, the Department for Work and Pensions, Social Services, The DVLA etc.

Which court should I apply to?

We recommend you make your application in the High Court (where officers of the court, called 'Tipstaff' can assist in carrying out the orders). The address of the High Court is:

Principal Registry, First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6NP

Applying to court

If you are using a solicitor, they will handle the application for you. If you don't have a solicitor, download and complete the Form C4. Print and sign three copies of the form.

Check how much the court fees are (currently £215), and either take a cheque, postal order or cash for that amount when you go to court.

It will assist both you and the judge if you write a brief Position Statement (see our packages in our Shop, for templates and guides on writing a position statement). Try to keep the position statement to two to three pages, setting out briefly why you are applying for the seek and find order, what other orders you are applying for (e.g. contact or residence or parental responsibility etc).

A position statement is not essential, but it helps inform the judge, briefly and ideally succinctly, why you are applying for the order and can assist you in court so you do not forget any points you wish to raise.

Before setting off for the court building, ensure you have with you:

Michael Robinson © 2014

Family law information for parents whose children are resident in England and Wales

Crown Copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's printer for Scotland.