Australia is a party to the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Convention aims to ensure that children who are wrongfully taken from, or retained in, another country are quickly returned.
What does this mean for parents?
A parent who takes children out of Australia without the other parent’s consent can face serious legal consequences. So too can parents who have consent to travel overseas with their children but do not return in an agreed time frame.
What are the steps to recover children?
The Convention sets up a Central Authority in each Convention country to deal with applications for the return of children. Parents can make a request to the Central Authority for the removal or return of their children. The Central Authority assesses the request and if accepted, makes the relevant application to the Family Court.
If a child is taken to a country which is not a party to the Convention or any agreement with Australia, or if the Central Authority does not accept a parent’s request, the process is more complicated.
Are there any exceptions?
Yes. If the Convention applies, there are nonetheless some exceptions which may prevent a child from being returned. International child abduction is a very complicated area of family law and you need urgent advice if you believe that your child has been removed from Australia or there is a risk of this occurring.
If you want to travel overseas with your children, you should start planning at least six months in advance, and you may need legal advice. If you are negotiating a parenting plan or parenting order, it is worth considering travel issues then.