One of the most stressful things that could ever happen to a parent is their child being abducted, and that is multiplied times 10 if it is clear they have been abducted and taken overseas. International parental child abduction occurs when one parent or guardian takes their child from its home country without the permission of the other parent or guardian, or without the authorisation of a court. In these cases, an experienced family lawyer can advise what actions can be taken by the left behind parent and act on their behalf with regards to any legal process that need to be initiated in order to return the child to Australia.
We should start by mentioning that in the vast majority of cases where a child has been abducted and taken overseas it will be by one of their parents, normally following relationship breakdown and a family separation . It follows, therefore, that it is extremely rare for a child to be abducted and taken overseas by a stranger or someone unknown to the family.
The psychological and emotional harm that the abduction may cause the child and any children left behind is no less damaging and one reason why getting the child safely back home as soon as possible, is vital.
If your child has been abducted and taken overseas, or if you fear that they may be abducted, then there are certain steps you can take to either protect them or to seek their return.
Prevention is better than the cure, so the first step is to contact the Australian Federal Police with a view to having your child placed on the Family Law Watchlist. This watchlist contains the names of children believed to be at risk of abduction and taken overseas. This would mean that federal police would be alerted if your child presented at an airport within Australia and they would be prevented from travelling overseas without a valid court order permitting travel.
As part of this process, you should seek the help of an experienced family lawyer as they know the correct procedure to be followed to place a child’s name on the Family Law Watchlist. This process involves completion of a request form along with an application with the Court for a Court order or parenting order limiting or preventing the child’s overseas travel and which also requests the AFP to place the child on the Family Law Watchlist .
If unfortunately, your child has already been taken overseas, your family lawyer can help you apply for a recovery order issued by the Family Court.
One thing in your favour with regards to a return order is that Australia is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Hague Convention is a treaty in force between Australia and a number of other countries. It provides a lawful procedure for seeking the return of abducted children to their home country. It also provides assistance to parents to obtain contact or access to children overseas. The Australian Central Authority in the Attorney-General’s Department is responsible for administering the Hague Convention.
The list of countries who are signatories to the Hague Convention literally goes from A to Z, with nations from Albania to Zimbabwe all having it in force. If the country that you believe your child has been taken is one of them, then your lawyer can approach the Australian Central Authority on your behalf ,in order to set the wheels in motion for your child’s return to Australia.
If the country in question is not a signatory to the Hague Convention then your lawyer can request assistance from the Consular Branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in seeking the return of your child to Australia.