International Child Abduction
By Stephen Thomas, Solicitor LLB, GradDipLegPrac
International Child Abduction has been brought to the forefront by the recent imprisonment of a 60 Minutes television crew in Lebanon.
The crew and the mother of the children involved have obviously reacted to the issue in an illegal way, have been caught by the Lebanese authorities and have only recently been released from Prison.
Still, this situation raises many important issues that are faced in relationships with children post separation. If your partner has family and support overseas, what is stopping them from taking the children?
It’s important to know that there are legal avenues to resolve these issues that can be used before doing something as drastic as attempting to take the children in a foreign country and finding yourself in an overseas prison.
What to do if you think there is a threat of international child abduction?
Like many issues in the law and life, it is always better to take pre-emptive steps to reduce the threat of the issue occurring, rather than to react to it.
If you believe there is the slightest chance that your partner or any other person may attempt to either abduct or retain your children overseas, then you should IMMEDIATELY contact a Lawyer.
What can a lawyer do?
Well, I’m glad you asked. A lawyer will apply to the Court ASAP for a ‘Watch List Order’. If granted this order stops the parties from removing the specified children from Australia.
How do they do this?
Well wherever there are international departures in Australia: through sea or air, the children details are added to a list which means they are unable to depart Australia. Additionally the Court may order that the passports of the children be handed to them .
If the children are entitled to have a passport of another nationality made, it is advisable to contact the embassy and let them know of the situation. This is not binding on the embassy.
My children has been abducted overseas, what happens now?
A terrifying prospect to any parent. Emotions are running high, logic is overrun by concern for the child/rem. What help is there for me?
Firstly; there is the Hague Convention. This is an international agreement which creates a legal process for parents to apply to have an abducted child returned to their home country .
This is a method that can only be used if Australia by virtue of the Hague Convention has an agreement with the country that your children have been taken to. There is a list of countries which have signed up to the Hague Convention. This is available on the following website:
This convention covers children that have been abducted (taken from the country illegally and kept internationally) or retained (taken from the country legally BUT kept internationally illegally).
Applications for the Hague Convention go through the Federal Government Attorney-Generals Department. They are the ‘Central Authority’ for the Hague Convention in Australia and they will communicate with the ‘Central Authority’ in the responding nation.
If your child is abducted or retained you should make application ASAP. The process can be lengthy and the longer the application is left, the longer it will be.
The children are in a country that is not part of the Hague Convention, what can I do?
If the country is not part of the Hague Convention you should firstly check if Australia has any private agreements relating to child abduction with them such as Lebanon and Egypt. This information can be found on the website above.
Essentially the parenting arrangements would be handled by the country’s local family law and family Court. This is the same if a child from a non-Hague Convention country was abducted by an Australian and was residing here. The matter would be determined in our Family Courts.
The Bilateral Agreements that Australia has with Lebanon, sets up a committee to “provide a forum for dialogue and mutual assistance” . Although this is not a legal process, it provides weight to an individuals claim if it is going through such official channels.
If your child is ever abducted or retained overseas, remember that you have options. If there is a lesson to be learned from the situation in Lebanon, do not attempt illegal actions in foreign countries. Even in a desperate situation there are options and supports and our lawyers at Hartleys Lawyers can provide you with everything you need to form a strategy according to your individual circumstances.
Law Council of Australia, International Parental Child Abduction Legal Resource: 2015 Law Council of Australia, p 93.
If you have concerns regarding your children being abducted internationally or they have been retained in an international jurisdiction please contact us for a no obligation free interview to discuss your options. We are here to help.