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.