Make International Parental Child Abduction a crime in Australia
My children, Lahela and Noah (Australian citizens, both born in Brisbane) were taken in May 2015 to Lebanon by their father Ali, on what was supposed to be a holiday. Their father betrayed my trust and instead of returning them as promised to both myself and the children, he's holding them there. He's cut off all communications between us and refuses to take any calls or answer emails. He's basically removed me as a mother from our children's lives and cut all ties to their Australian family.
This man stole our children and will face no punishment. How is this fair? and how is this legal? This is emotional and psychological child abuse.
Australia has the highest rate per capita of international parental abductions in the world, averaging two a week. That’s in part because parental abduction is not a crime in Australia, unlike in the UK and USA. While it’s an offence to remove a child from Australia without the permission of the court or the other parent, it’s not a criminal offence if there are no court proceedings or orders preventing it.
It's clear that the governments and many others for that matter do not work together to help solve problematic parenting behaviour which leads to alienation of a child from the other loving and perfectly fit parent.
The crisis for any parent who lives in Australia and whose child is abducted by the other parent and taken (or wrongfully retained) overseas is that there is no point calling the police - they can’t help you. Instead, it is necessary to initiate legal proceedings in the Family Court of Australia seeking an order for the recovery of your child. If your child has been taken to a country which is a signatory to The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, recovery can take up to eight (8) months. The process is demanding, stressful and, if you are legally represented, expensive. And if your child has been taken to a non-convention country, your recovery options are severely limited.
An urgent review of the laws relating to International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA) in this country is required. We desperately need new laws which make it much more difficult for an abducting parent to flee the country in the first place, or to remain overseas having promised to return. But perhaps most importantly of all, we need laws which facilitate the return of an abducted child much more quickly and straightforwardly than is presently being achieved through the courts.
Perhaps this can be accomplished by empowering the police to play a greater and more independent role in recoveries? While the Family Court will inevitably have a part to play where children have been abducted, new laws authorising law enforcement authorities to be more deeply involved from the start may help to locate and return abducted children to Australia more quickly.
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