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Canberra Family Law – International parental abduction – should it be a crime?

By March 26, 2015No Comments

The ABC reports that two Australian children abducted by their father and taken to Afghanistan have been reunited with their mother here after being missing for more than two years. The case has highlighted the issue of international parental abduction, amid alarming statistics that such abductions affect approximately 300 children a year.

The support group Coalition of Parents of Abducted Children argues that figure could be reduced by criminalising international parental abductions so that the ‘left behind’ parent can obtain assistance from police in locating their children rather than trying to do it privately. The support group says that Australia is one of the few countries where it is not a criminal offence and that this makes finding the children very hard for the parent:

“The parent has to act as the investigator, the parent has to act as the lawyer, the parent has to spend enormous amounts of money to gain access to information that might lead to the location of their child. And that information is information that is freely available to the Australian Federal Police but their hands are tied because they can’t act because it is not a criminal offence.”

In the case reported by the ABC, the children’s mother was able to access help from the Western Australian Family Court and Legal Aid, and enlisted an American lawyer who spent months tracking down the children with the support of Afghan authorities.

Even when there is a positive outcome and children are returned to their homeland such as in this case, they have usually experienced severe emotional trauma, necessitating psychological assistance to help them reintegrate to their former lives. This can add to the reunited parent’s costs and expenses.

In the recent case, the lawyer who eventually returned the children reports that “they are not speaking English any more and they have strong feelings against their mother to which they have been brainwashed”, though she notes that the children’s innate resilience is a positive factor in helping them recover.

If you are concerned about your ex-partner taking your child overseas without your permission, you should seek urgent legal advice–please call Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400. We have training in methods available to obtain urgent court orders, over the weekend and by telephone if necessary, to prevent child abduction to countries which are not signatory to the Hague Convention.

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