Child Abduction – an increasing problem
Parental Child Abduction and Family Law
A vital role of the family courts is to determine the best parenting arrangements for children of separating couples, generally first using mediation and consultation with family counsellors and, where negotiation fails, through a court decision. The situation becomes very difficult if, once orders have been made, one parent wilfully ignores them.
Courts are becoming tougher on parental child abduction
Judges are taking a more forceful approach with parents who ignore court orders and, particularly with parents who abscond with their children, such as the Brisbane mother who went on the run for three years with her two children and was subsequently jailed for 18 months. The children’s grandmother was also given a custodial sentence and will spend at least three months in gaol.
Judge Michael Jarrett berated the children’s mother for her “flagrant disregard” of the custody arrangement made between her and her ex-husband.
“(The mother’s) non-compliance with the orders have deprived these children the opportunity of developing their relationship with their other parent,” Judge Jarrett told the court. “Even more significant is trauma these children have been subjected to as a result of many shifts from residence to residence.”
In May, NSW Police arrested another North Queensland woman after she abducted her grandson from a primary school and hid him in Port Macquarie. After the boy was found, the police returned them to Queensland where the grandmother faced court proceedings for child abduction.
Applying for a recovery order
Where a parent involved in family law proceedings removes a child from their usual residence and prevents the other parent from having court-ordered contact with the child because they cannot be located, the other parent can apply to the Court seeking a recovery order.
If the recovery order fails, a parent can apply to the court for a publication order which allows photographs and names of the missing child to be published in the media. Often the publication results in the children being located through public information.
Overseas child abduction and the Hague Convention
If the child is abducted to an overseas country, a different process applies. Australia has one of the highest per capita rates in the world of parents unlawfully kidnapping their children and fleeing with them overseas. Last year alone, there were 114 ongoing Australian applications of child abduction to Hague Convention signatories.
If a child is taken to a country that is a member of the Hague Convention, steps can be taken through the international agreement to mediate custody battles. However, a legal resolution becomes infinitely more difficult if the child is taken to non-Hague Convention countries like India, China or Lebanon.
Do you need Family Law help?
If the issues in this article about parental child abduction resonate with you or if you have any other Family Law query please contact us for legal advice tailored to your situation. Call us on 07 5597 3366 or complete the ‘Contact Us’ form below
This article was written by Margaret Miller, partner of Bell Legal Group for general information only. It is not legal advice nor is it intended to be and it should not be relied upon as such.