Why is international child abduction still legal in Australia?

Why is international child abduction still legal in Australia?

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It is legal in Australia for a child to be retained overseas without the consent of both of their parents. 

In October of 2015 my son and his mother went to Japan for a holiday for about a month. This holiday was extended to 3 months. They had return tickets. At the end of the 3 months the mother refused to return with our son to Australia. She prevented me returning with him to Australia by withholding his travel documents. She retained him in Japan without consent. This is child abduction. I attempted to use the Hague Convention to have my son returned to his home in Australia. However, this failed.

The Osaka family court ruled that:

  • My son’s place of habitual residence was Australia prior to the holiday, and
  • I had given consent for him to stay and live in Japan without me

I submitted to the court unequivocal evidence in the form of instant messages which I had sent to the mother saying that they must return as originally planned. Unfortunately, the judges of the Osaka Family Court ignored this evidence.

I appealed to the Osaka High Court. They ruled that:

  • My son’s place of habitual residence was never Australia prior to the holiday to Japan

The Osaka High Court ignored that fact that my family had settled and lived in Australia for over 12 months prior to the holiday. They ignored that my son and his mother went to Japan only on a holiday. 

The Osaka High Court denied my appeal.

The Japanese Hague courts legitimise international parental child abduction under the treaty which was designed to prevent such an act occurring. The Australian Government has been silently monitoring this issue. However, monitoring the situation by definition does not change it.

Since January 2016, my son has only been allowed to spend a total of 4 hours face to face time with me (over 3 separate visits in Japan). 2 hours of this has been at train stations in Japan. All aspects of these visits have been dictated by his mother.

Since January 2016, my son has been denied contact with his extended family. 

There is no legal recourse for parental child abduction in Japan because there are no actual laws protecting the rights of the child to have both parents, and families in their life. The Japanese legal system defaults to treating children as objects or property. Japan has absolutely no means of protecting the rights of the child. 

Retaining a child overseas without the consent of both parents must be recognised as a criminal act under Australian Law. It is child abduction plain and simple. The abducting parent is denying the child their right to have:

  • meaningful and loving relationships with both their parents
  • meaningful and loving relationships with their whole family
  • strong connections to their languages and cultures

Australia must not rely on other countries domestic laws or their compliance in following international agreements such as the Hague Convention. I call on the Attorney-General Christian Porter and the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to help protect the rights of all children in Australia. Please strengthen Australian laws to stop international child abduction.