You may have heard by now of the remarkable case of Andrew Thompson, a young boy recently located in Europe after being abducted by his mother two and a half years ago. Andrew’s parents were involved in hostile Family Court litigation in Australia when Andrew was a toddler. In the middle of the proceedings, Melinda suddenly left Australia and has been on the run until now.
If you’re worried about the possibility of your child being taken out of the country without your permission, here are some things you should know:
At other times the Australian parent left behind can get an order in Australia which prevents a foreign court making an order about the child (by getting an order that the abducting parent does not start or continue a case overseas).
International child abduction occurs where a child is taken out of Australia by a parent without permission. It can also include cases where foreign children are removed from their countries to Australia. It is usually done by stealth and before the other parent becomes aware of the intention to leave Australia.
The key element is that the child was taken out of a country where he or she was ‘habitually resident’.
If you suspect your child may be at risk of abduction you need to act fast. If you don’t already have court orders in place, you can file an application for interim and/or final parenting orders. In those orders, you can ask for an ‘Airport Watchlist Order.’ This order will put the name of the child on the airport and ports watchlists operated by the Australian Federal Police.
The watch list will signal an alert if a child is about to leave Australia at customs and the child is likely to be prohibited from leaving Australia at the airport or at any port.
The Australian Federal Police will place the child’s name on the watchlist as soon as the application is filed. You do not already need to have the orders made, the application itself will be sufficient in the short term.
Are you considering taking a child overseas without the other parent’s permission or knowledge? If so, you can be in breach of the Family Law Act if you take the child out of Australia while proceedings are pending.