Man missing with 4 year old daughter feared child’s mother would take daughter to Finland

by Peter Magee on January 20, 2014

Peter Magee

No doubt you will have read of the case of missing man Greg Hutchings and his daughter Eeva Dorendahl, who have been missing since Saturday after failing to turn up at a family gathering. It has recently been reported that Mr Hutchings’ sister is confident that Eeva is safe, and that Mr Hutchings and his daughter are in hiding after Mr Hutchings discovered a Finnish passport for Eeva. Mr Hutchings was reportedly scared that Eeva’s mother was secretly going to remove Eeva from Australia and relocate to Finland.

Whilst the facts of this case are unclear, there are probably equal portions of society that are critical of Mr Hutchings’ decision to go into hiding, and those that are critical of Eva’s mother for attempting to relocate with Eeva to Finland, away from her father.

Again, this writer stresses that the facts of this case are unclear, especially where it has been reported that the ongoing parenting proceedings are under way in Finland rather than Australia. This raises questions as to where Eeva’s place of residence has been. Without knowing the full facts of the case it is unwise to comment upon what may be in Eva’s best interests as to whether she resides in one country or the other.

However, this issue is at the forefront of many separated parents’ minds where one parent has significant connections in another country. If a child has been predominately raised in Australia, and Australia was the child’s home prior to separation, there are options available to parents who are concerned that another parent may secretly take the child overseas.

If there is notice that a parent intends to relocate with a child overseas, and threats have been made, it is open to the other party to file an urgent order in the Federal Circuit Court for an “Airport Watch List Order”. This Order ensures that the child’s name is placed on the ‘Watch List’ of all airports and other exit points from Australia to ensure that a child cannot leave the country. Such an Order may be made ex parte (in the absence of the other parent) and is often afforded urgency before the Court.

If a parent becomes aware that the other parent has already taken the child overseas, an Airport Watch List Order will not assist, as the child must be in the country. However, there are other options open to that parent. A parent may file an Application for an Order pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction for an assessment of the appropriate jurisdiction for parenting matters to be heard. If it is ruled that Australia is the appropriate jurisdiction for parenting matters to be heard, in circumstances where that child’s home prior to separation was Australia (there are other considerations) then an Order can be made for the child to return to Australia. Upon the child’s return to Australia an Application can be made for an Airport Watch List Order to keep the child in Australia and to proceed with further parenting proceedings. Please note that not all countries in the world are a signatory to the Hague Convention, and only those that are signatories will abide by this process.

If you have any concerns that your child will be taken overseas without your permission, or if they already have been, please contact one of our family law experts today. In such matters time is absolutely of the essence.

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