Is your child safe on an overseas holiday?

by Bree Staines on March 29, 2016

Bree Staines

As a parent, one of the worst feelings possible would be to not know where your children are, who they are with and when you will see them again.

This is the circumstance an Australian mother found herself: http://www.9news.com.au/national/2015/07/07/19/41/brisbane-mothers-heartbreaking-plea-for-estranged-husband-to-return-their-children-to-australia.

The father of her children took the children to his home country of Lebanon for a holiday but did not return them home. The mother now only has sporadic communication with her children via Skype sessions.

The Family Law Act has provisions that allow Orders to be made that control when each parent is to spend time with their child(ren) and how one parents holidays with the children are to be organised so the other parent is aware of the holiday. While the former type of Order is typical in most family law matters, the latter is usually only necessary if there is serious communication difficulties between the parties, or one party has significant ties to a country overseas (such as a large number of relatives and ties to a community).

The article makes reference to the Hague Convention. The Hague Convention is a multilateral treaty (international law) in force between Australia and a number of other countries (81 countries). It provides a lawful procedure for seeking the return of abducted children to their home country. In this case, the fact that the country the father has taken the children to is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, the mother is unable to make an application to the Australian Central Authority, and subsequently the courts in Lebanon, to have the Lebanese court decide whether Australia is the children’s habitual place of residence and the children should be returned there.

While Australia has a bilateral treaty with Lebanon in respect child abduction (Cooperation on Protecting the Welfare of Children) and the Australian parent can make an application to the court of Lebanon, neither option provides legal assurance that the parents application for the return of their child(ren) will be considered quickly, and subsequently granted.

Furthermore, if there are parenting Orders in place in Australia from the Family Law Courts, it may be the case that another country signatory to the Hague Convention will recognise our laws and will often enforce our parenting Orders.

At Armstrong Legal, we can advise you in relation to what steps you may need to take in the Australian family law system to prevent possible international child abduction. We can work with you to determine how to safely arrange for your children to travel overseas with a parent, and regulation of communication with your children while they are travelling with their other parent.

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