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Contravention of court orders: Father jailed

By December 19, 2017October 21st, 2021No Comments

By Gianna Huesch

A recent matter in the Family Court demonstrates the power that the court has in dealing with contravention of court orders, having now jailed a father who “spirited away” one of his children to the Middle East several years ago and who has refused to comply with orders to arrange for the child’s return.

The father will be jailed for a period of six months “or until such time as he complies with his obligation” to have the boy brought home to his mother.

Imprisonment is not a common penalty for contravention of court orders in the Family Court, but is certainly an option among several that the court may consider.  It is reserved for the “more serious” contraventions that occur, and in this case has been employed as a coercive measure, designed to compel the father to cause the return of the now five year old boy.

The boy’s mother had been granted sole parental responsibility of the couple’s children and they lived with her, with the father spending time with the kids. However, on one occasion in 2014, the mother arrived to collect her children from their father’s home only to find the residence locked up and vacated. On enquiring urgently with police, she discovered that he had left Australia for the Middle East, taking the children with him.

The mother was later able to travel to the Middle East and on the pretext of reconciling, obtain access to one of the children and the child’s passport. She was able to then return that child to Australia. The father later returned to Australia in hopes of reconciling, but left the young boy in the Middle East with his paternal grandmother, where he remains. The mother has not seen the five year old boy since 2014.

In proceedings earlier this year, the court had ordered the return of the boy to Australia, but this has not occurred, in clear contravention of court orders.

The court noted, “The removal of a child from the Commonwealth of Australia and the father’s persistent failure to return the child is a most serious contravention of Court orders”. As the father was unable to convince the judge that he had a “reasonable excuse” for his contravention of court orders, the judge imposed the penalty of a sentence of imprisonment in accordance with section 70NFG of the Family Law Act 1975.

The father’s release will be conditional upon compliance with the original orders. As such, the penalty is “directed towards securing compliance with the order”.

The judge, who also criticised the father’s sister and mother as having been complicit in removing the children from the country, noted: “The spiriting of a child out of Australia and away from the primary carer and that child’s retention in Country E out of the reach of this Court’s jurisdiction is reprehensible conduct on the part of the father”.

FURTHER READING:

Courier-Mail

Read the Family Court judgment

Do you need legal assistance with a parenting matter? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400 for an initial no-obligation, cost-free consultation.

Please note that our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance.

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