Preventing International Parental Child Abduction
Did you know that Australia has one of the highest rates of international parental child abduction in the world?
Once a parent has taken their children out of Australia without the permission of the other parent or retained a child overseas outside of an agreement reached with the other parent, it may be difficult to secure the safe return of the children back to Australia.
The level of difficulty in recovering children back to Australia depends on whether the country the children were taken to is a signatory to the Hague Convention. The Hague Convention is an international agreement between 93 countries (including Australia), to act in a specific manner when dealing with matters such as international parental child abductions.
Although the Hague Convention makes it easier to recover children from a signatory country, not all children that are taken from Australia to a signatory country during custody disputes are returned to Australia. There are very specific conditions that need to be proved before children will be returned to Australia under the Convention. The circumstances and facts that existed before the travel or abduction took place is crucial and can often mean the difference between the children being returned or not. Acting quickly is imperative. The longer children reside in another country, the less likely they will be returned to Australia.
Countries that are not signatories to the Hague Convention have no obligation under the Convention to return children to Australia. This may leave a parent with no option but to go through the court process in the country where the children have been taken, in an attempt to have the children returned to Australia.
Many parents do not realise the real risks associated with allowing their children to go on an overseas holiday with their other parent, even where the agreement is for the holiday to occur in a country which is signatory to the Hague Convention. The other parent may book flights for the children to another non-signatory country and may never return the children to Australia, often with little to no legal repercussions. About 50% of the cases where children are not returned to Australia occur this way.
The best way to handle international child abduction, or the non-return of children to Australia, is to prevent it before it occurs. Knowing what can go wrong before agreeing to overseas holidays for the children and the other parent can assist with ensuring the right strategies are in place before the children travel, to prevent these situations from occurring. It can also make the difference in being able to secure the return of the children to Australia, if such a situation does occur.
There are many preventative strategies that can be set up. A Child Alert can be issued for children to prevent passports being issued for the children. Children’s names can be placed on the Family Law Watchlist stopping the children from being removed from Australia. A Court can make Orders preventing the children from traveling with a parent to another country or placing conditions on the parent wishing to travel internationally.
If the worst case scenario does happen to you, acting quickly is imperative. Being informed about the risks and the options regarding children and international travel can make all the difference.