The increase in cross border marriages, de facto relationships and internet dating are elements causing the elevated risk of international child abduction following the breakdown of a parental relationship.
Jenny Brockie of the SBS programme Insight hosted on 1 May 2012 a feature on “Parental Abduction” which highlighted the intense decisions confronting left out parents, and the negative mental | psychological flow on effects to children following abduction. Insight report that:
- Australia has the highest rate per capita of international parental child abductions in the world.
- In 2011 there were 85 reported cases of abduction from Australia to Hague Convention countries.
- In 2011 DFAT reports that there were 35 Australian child abductions to non Hague countries.
Left behind parents can easily apply to bring their children home via the Hague Convention if it applies or through local proceedings in the international jurisdiction in countries where the Hague Convention does not apply. Both alternatives are costly and legally technical, and provide no guarantee of ultimate success, even in cases where the abducting parent has clearly acted out of malice.
Another choice some other to or, in the alternative to the legal channels would be to hire the services of private investigators such as one of Brockie’s guests, who specialise in international child retrievals. The guest discussed the strategies and techniques he uses and these include the contravention of foreign laws and using methods such as surveillance and sedation of the child.
Suppose you were a left behind parent, what action would you take? Suppose you are planning to leave Australia with your child, will the following information make you reconsider?
Brockie offered the expertise of a child psychologist with 25 years experience working in the family law system, and he highlighted the issues for the child in words to the effect of:
“Inevitably abducted kids are told negative things about the left behind parent. They might be told they are dead, dangerous or violent. The child believes this because the child is reliant on that parent and emotionally dependant on that parent in the situation. Outcomes are poor for children in these situations.
They become traumatised. Outwards they appear fine but this disguises the internal turmoil. The fact that they appear fine and okay only heightens the risk that they are traumatised and detaching. They become anxious and confused. Then if the left behind parent then suddenly re enters their life the triangulation becomes too much for them.”
What then of parents who assert that they are fearful of the other parent and flee?
The expert identifies that this is a really complicated equation, but that it is fair to say:
“Every case deserves individual attention. In case you think about a continuum, then at one end there is a parent acting in a justifiable protective manner. But it is important to note that in many cases an abducting parent fleeing a violent and destructive relationship may be struggling with reactive depression. Then at the other end is the parent who has turned a delusion into a belief and no matter what anyone says to them they believe they have been misunderstood or misrepresented. The story challenging their belief is not and cannot be correct. “
The Commonwealth is presently thinking about making international child abduction a criminal offence. There are pros and cons to this, and I wonder if the deterrence of the possibility of criminal sanction will really be sufficient in order to avoid a parent suffering with reactive depression or delusional beliefs to abduct a child?
If you were a left behind parent will you be willing to endorse the contravention of laws in and outside of Australia if it meant having your child returned? What of the risk of criminal prosecution in a foreign jurisdiction and your extradition for breaches of foreign laws?
If you're a left behind parent or guardian our family lawyers can help you bring your child home by applying our collective knowledge and expertise to your case and direct you strategically through the legal channels and improve your prospects of ultimate success.
If you are considering leaving Australia with your child and without the other parents consent (and we acknowledge that in some cases this might be an appropriate thing to do) then we think it is imperative for your long term relationship with your child that you seek our advice before you depart, because if in the long term you are ordered to return to Australia then you may pay a heavy price in terms of your parental relationship with your child.
If you are in a relationship in which you consider there's a risk of abduction, then there are preventative measures which you'll put in place now. You do not have to be divorced or separated for these measures to be put in place. Don’t postpone for tomorrow in which time your child is in hiding and on the run, that which can be achieved today.
Disclaimer : This article provides basic information only and is not a substitute for a professional or legal advice. It is prudent to obtain legal advice from a family lawyer.