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International parental child abduction occurs when one parent or guardian takes their child from its home country without the permission of the other parent or guardian, or without the authorisation of a court.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is the main international agreement that covers international parental child abduction. It provides a process through which the left-behind parent can seek to have their child returned to their home country.

The Hague Convention also deals with issues of international child access. When a parent or guardian lives in a different country to the home country of their child, it may be hard to work out access to them.

Access can include telephone, Skype, email or other long-distance forms of contact. Access can also involve travel by either the parent or child to allow them to visit each other.

The Hague Convention provides a process through which a parent can seek to have access orders made in the child’s home country allowing them to have access with their child.

Applications for Return of Children and Access to Children

An application under the Hague Convention for the return of a child or access to a child can only be made to or from a country that has signed the convention, and which Australia has recognised. Those countries, as at the time of writing, can be found listed here.

You can make an application for the return of your child or children if:

a) The child or children were wrongfully removed from Australia; or

b) They have been kept overseas for longer than you agreed.

c) The child or children will usually be returned if:

  • They are under the age of 16;
  • They ordinarily live with you, and were living with you immediately before being abducted;
  • They were was habitually resident in Australia immediately before being abducted;
  • They are currently in a country which is a signatory to the Hague Convention; and
  • They were taken from Australia without your consent, or without a Court order.

It is important to be aware of the process for applying for the return of children. The International Family Law Section of the Attorney-General’s Department performs the functions of the Australian Central Authority under The Hague Convention, and the 1996 Hague Child Protection Convention. You can contact the Australian Central Authority if you have any general questions about The Hague Conventions or the process for making an abduction application, access application or Court order registration application. International Social Service (ISS) Australia can help applicants wishing to make an application for return or access under the Hague Convention. ISS Australia is funded by the Attorney-General’s Department to provide this service free-of-charge to applicants. It also offers a range of other services including mediation and counselling. You can contact ISS Australia on 1300 657 843.

You may also be eligible for financial assistance from the Attorney-General’s Department. This can help you with the cost of legal proceedings in another country or the cost of travel to collect and return a child. This assistance is offered under the Overseas child abduction scheme. We administer this scheme which is means and merits-tested.

What happens if the country is not a Hague Convention signatory?

If your child or children are taken from their home country to a country that is not a signatory to The Hague Convention you should seek private legal advice in that country about how best to proceed.

You should be aware that Australia has bilateral agreements with Egypt and Lebanon regarding children’s issues (even though Egypt and Lebanon are not Hague Convention signatories). Information about these agreements can be found online (website of Attorney-General’s Department).

Seek Expert Advice

If you are planning international travel with your children you should obtain written consent from your former partner or spouse before taking them out of the country. You may also need to apply to the Court to permit the children to travel internationally if there are existing Court orders in place that prevent same. If you are in any doubt whatsoever about your children being taken overseas for any period, you should obtain expert family law advice.

If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters please contact our office on Freecall 1800 609 945 or email us now.