This week Australian media has widely reported that journalists and crew members from the 60 Minutes television program have been detained in Beirut, Lebanon, after covering a story regarding one parent who took his children overseas without the mother’s permission. Unfortunately this is an all too common problem, whether it be in relation to parents, usually ex-partners, taking children overseas, interstate or locally without the other’s permission. This would undoubtedly be a traumatic and stressful situation for any parent so it is important to seek urgent legal advice should this ever happen to you.
What happens if an ex-partner takes your children from you without your permission?
The first and most important thing you can do when you realise your former partner has taken your children without permission is to attempt to contact them and try and reach an agreement to have the children returned. If attempts at contact and reaching an agreement fail, it is imperative you seek urgent legal advice. It is likely that your family lawyer will advise that you apply to the court urgently for a Parenting Order and Recovery Order that will determine parents’ responsibilities in relation to making decisions for and about their children, and allow the police to return your children to you.
Where you already have a Court Order
In situations where you and your partner have separated and you have a Court Order that states the children live with you, if the ex-partner does not return the children to you, it is imperative that should attempts at contacting them fail, you seek urgent legal advice. This will usually result in your family lawyer applying to the Court for a Recovery Order which allows the police to return the children.
What about when you think your ex-partner will take the children overseas?
Your family lawyer can advise that you contact the Family Court to have the children’s names added to the Airport Watch List and advise the Australian Federal Police of any Orders made in relation to this. This will mean the Australian Federal Police are aware of the situation and can prevent the children from going overseas without your permission.
It is also important to note that under sections 65Y and 65Z of the Family Law Act, it is illegal for a parent to take a child overseas where there are court proceedings in relation to Parenting Orders or relating to the children generally.
If the children have already been taken overseas
In this situation it is important to look at the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980. If the country the children have been taken to is a party to The Hague Convention, then Australia and the country in question can more easily negotiate to ensure the return of the children. If the country the children have been taken to is not a party to the Convention, your family lawyer can utilise several legal options within the Attorney-General’s Department.
Freedman & Gopalan has expertise in this area, and has recently been engaged where a father had abducted his son and taken him to India without the mother’s consent. The mother engaged Freedman & Gopalan, and we were successful in obtaining Orders from the Family Court of Australia. We then used our services and contacts in order to obtain Orders in India, a non-Hague Convention Member, and took appropriate steps to recover the child.
If your children have been taken from you without your permission or if you have any questions in relation to Parenting, Recovery or Court Orders for your family law matter, contact our solicitors on 02 8917 8700 or fill out the enquiry box and we will get back to you ASAP.