Child Abduction & Hague Convention

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Taussig Cherrie Fildes has extensive experience in child abduction and Hague Convention cases.

Judge Amanda Humphreys, who previously worked at TCF between December 2019-December 2022, had extensive knowledge and experience in international family law, jurisdictional disputes, cross-border property issues, overseas financial agreements, registration of overseas orders and making ‘mirror orders’. She was an expert in international relocation and international child abduction cases and the operation of the 1980 and 1996 Hague Conventions (the Child Abduction Convention and Child Protection Conventions) as well as international agreements governing the registration, collection and enforcement of overseas child support and maintenance obligations. Judge Humphreys supervised and trained our lawyers in respect of child abduction and Hague Convention cases, until her appointment as a Judge in Division 2 of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia in February 2023.

Principal Paul Fildes is a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers (IAFL). He has a special interest in international property and relocation cases, involving the adjustment and treatment of assets located internationally, including Asia, Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

In the case of child abduction by a parent, there are various avenues of recourse.

If a child has been abducted within Australia, a parent or other significant person in the child’s life may ask a court to make a:

  • location order that authorises or directs persons or organisations to provide information regarding the whereabouts of the missing parent; and/or
  • recovery order that authorises or directs persons or organisations, such as the Australian Federal Police, to find, recover and deliver the child to the other parent or other significant person. An order can also prohibit the parent from again removing or taking possession of the child.

In the case of the abduction of a child by parent overseas, Australia is a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“the Hague Convention“), also known as “the 1980 Hague Convention” or the “Child Abduction Convention”.

The Hague Convention operates with the aim to promptly return children who have been wrongly removed or retained by a parent overseas, to their country of habitual residence. Parenting arrangements are then resolved by the courts of the country of habitual residence. Only very limited exceptions apply to the mandatory return of children under the Hague Convention.

The Hague Convention also allows a parent to make an access application to seek assistance in making contact with a child who lives overseas. Access arrangements can include visits, email, phone and video calls.

Where a child has been taken to or retained in Australia, legal proceedings for incoming applications under the Hague Convention are ordinarily conducted by the State Central Authority, on behalf of the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department (the Australian Central Authority). In such cases, we often assist “requesting” or “left behind parents” in conjunction with the State Central Authority.

For outgoing applications, where a child has been taken or retained overseas, we can assist to make an application to be transmitted overseas by the Australian Central Authority.

In respect of countries which are not party to the Hague Convention, we can consider other options, including other available international conventions and treaties and potentially seeking assistance from overseas colleagues to commence court proceedings in another jurisdiction.

Hague Convention proceedings are conducted very differently to other parenting disputes and require specialised legal expertise.

We have successfully acted for parents who have sought to remain with their children in Australia, and assisted clients whose children have been wrongfully removed from Victoria and elsewhere in Australia. We can assist with the preparation of applications and supporting documents, liaising with the Central Authority, representation in Australian court proceedings and arranging legal advice and representation overseas.

We are also able to facilitate and support our clients with the mediation of child abduction cases, which is increasingly ordered by the courts, and we can arrange private cross-border mediation where appropriate.

If you have reason to be concerned about a child being abducted overseas, we recommend you arrange an urgent appointment with one of our lawyers to discuss protective options available including injunctions and Family Law (Airport) Watch List orders.

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