Child Custody and International Law
One of the biggest issues facing Multi-national Australian families is parenting arrangements and custody of children. The 2011 Census suggests nearly half of the Australian population has one parent who was born in another country. As Australia has one of the highest intermarriage rates and divorces in the world, this often leads to international child custody disputes.
Under Australian law, the Family Court will not allow one parent to move their children interstate or overseas against the other parents wishes. If one parent attempts to do so, there are numerous methods of preventing this from happening including passports to be surrender to the Court, or orders restraining the removal of children from Australia by requesting the AFP to assist Airport Watch regarding the matter.
Children Born Overseas
However, if children are born overseas to a couple, there are no steadfast rules determining where the children should live in the event of a partnership separation. The recent story of Melissa George is an example of how international relationships can go southward quickly. In the case of George, the children were born in France to a French father and therefore have citizenship in the country. Therefore, unfortunately for Melissa, the court is unlikely to impose an order allowing for them to be removed.
Another famous example is the situation involving Sally Faulkner and the Channel 9 TV Crew in 2016. Following a televised and filmed kidnapping attempt by Faulkner the husband moved both children to Lebanon, where the Lebanese Judge gave the husband full custody of the children.
What Can You Do if The Child is Overseas?
If your child or children have been taken outside Australia without your consent or have not been returned to Australia, you should immediately contact the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department for assistance. Although Australia has an agreement with some countries to return abducted children to their country of usual residence under the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, if the child is not within a party to this convention, the Court is unable to enforce the children’s return.
If you are having an out-of-hours emergency regarding child abduction, you should contact the Court on 1300 352 000 to make an application. If the children have no been abducted but you have a reasonable suspicion an attempt may occur in the near future, you should contact legal support to clarify your position or contact the Australian Passport Information Service on 13 12 32 to find out more information regarding child alerts.