20.06.2016 By Amanda Millyard

Cross-border parental child abduction

The botched child snatch of Sally Faulkner’s two children in Beirut, Lebanon on April 7 focuses attention on what can happen when a love match between a couple from different countries with children ends badly.

Family Court Orders made in Australia are not always upheld or enforceable in another country.

Parental child abduction is not a crime in Australia.

Just as the Australian Government usefully issues travel advice through its website “smart traveller’, the wording for warnings on that website can (with tongue in cheek) be adapted and kept at the forefront of one’s mind in situations of relationships that cross international borders. For example:

  1. Reconsider your need to relationship; or
  2. Exercise a high degree of caution; or
  3. Do not relationship; or
  4. Exercise normal safety precautions

The Australian Government can help to recover children abducted from Australia to another country if the other country is a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.However, even if the other country is a signatory, there are delays and no certainty in recovering the children due to a number of exceptions to a return that may apply.

If you break the law of another country to try to retrieve your child, and are caught, you may go to jail in that country.

There is also the emotional or even physical harm) you might cause to your child during a ‘snatch’ or ‘snatch attempt’.

Think your situation or potential situation through carefully.

If your partner has limited or no employment prospects in Australia and all their family are in their home country, it is not likely they will want to stay in the event of a relationship breakup where there are children. Never underestimate the issue of homesickness.

If there are plans during your relationship to holiday or relocate from Australia to your partner’s country, then consideration should be given as to what legal rights to child custody you have and whether you have status to stay permanently in the destination country.

Imagine having no permanent status to stay and no means of being able to lawfully return your child to Australia?

If you are able to stay, you might face the prospect of being unable to lawfully return home with your child and of becoming ‘stuck’ in the destination country.

Obtaining legal advice from specialist family lawyers in your home country and the other country is a must.

The International Academy of Family Lawyers (IAFL) is a worldwide association of practizing lawyers who are family law specialists in their respective countries. These lawyers can be called upon to provide legal advice to clients and other lawyers on family law issues.

I read with interest an article written by Caroline Overington in The Weekend Australian (“Blundering across a Beirut Special”, The Weekend Australian, April 23-24, 2016 p 19). In discussing Sally Faulkner’s story, Ms Overington notes the US’s action taken on the issue of parental child abduction, viz “new laws to cancel state visits by and to those nations that won’t comply with an order to return a child”. “Financial assistance to countries that are harboring abducted children“can be cancelled.

“Perhaps it’s time for Australia to follow the US lead”, suggests Ms Overington.

My thoughts are sanctions are an idea worth trying.


Amanda Millyard