Are you worried about your ex moving overseas with your children?
ABC News has reported that 60 Minutes reporter Tara Brown and her film crew were detained by police in Lebanon. The film crew were apparently investigating a bitter custody battle resulting in the Lebanese father retaining the 5 and 2 year old children after the children were sent to Lebanon for a holiday with him. The children were reported to usually reside with their Australian mother in Brisbane, although there are a number of outstanding allegations about the circumstances of the “snatch and grab” and the actual agreement between the parents.
This recent case brings to light the difficulties parents face when one of them seeks to move overseas with children, or if one parent moves away from the children and seeks an agreement for the children to spend time with them.
The 2006 amendments to the Family Law Act shows a legislative intent which clearly favours the substantial involvement of both parents in a child’s life. When making decisions about domestic or international relocation, the Court must not only give consideration to the best interests of the child, but also to the child spending equal time with both parents, or living with one parent and spending substantial and significant time with the other. In international relocation cases, the aim of ensuring the children have regular contact with the other parent is simply impracticable.
If a parent has some advanced warning of the international relocation, he or she can make an application to place the child’s name on the Airport Watchlist to prevent international travel and then commence proceedings in the Family Law Courts to determine whether the parent should be permitted to relocate the child.
Australia and a list of other countries have agreed to a procedure to return children to their home countries if one parent absconds with them. This agreement is called the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Presently, 70 countries have signed up to the Convention. The full list is available at www.hcch.net.
If, before the Family Law Courts become involved, a parent has already removed the child from Australia to a country contracting into the Hague Convention, an application under the Convention can be made to return the child to Australia (if the other country is a signatory to the Hague Convention). Any application must be supported by an Affidavit and other relevant identification and legal documents.
If a parent has removed the child from Australia to a country that has not signed up to the Convention, it may be necessary for the other parent to obtain private legal representation in that Country to make an application for the child to be returned to Australia.
Notably, Lebanon is not currently a signatory to the Hague Convention which may explain the ABC News article suggesting the children’s mother was in Lebanon with a child recovery agency attempting to retrieve the children.
You can read more about the news story by visiting http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-07/tara-brown-and-60-minutes-crew-detained-in-beirut-lebanon