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“Italian Abduction” case highlights the need for and use of the Hague Convention by Australian Family Courts – By Abbi Golightly – QLS Accredited Specialist Family Law

There has been intense media attention in passing days surrounding a decision of the Family Court of Australia which requires four children to return to Italy.  The decision, originally made in June, 2011 and subsequently upheld on appeal in September, 2011 applies the provisions of the Hague Convention and has required the children’s mother to facilitate their return to Italy.

The Hague Convention, as it is commonly known, is the International Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction.  Ratified by Australia many years ago, its application requires the participation of the relevant Australian Government Department (in Queensland the Department of Communities – Child Safety Services) in determining whether a child or children have been wrongfully removed to Australia in breach of another parent’s rights of custody.  If the Court determines that there has been wrongful removal and retention, subject to exceptions surrounding children’s wishes and grave concerns for children’s safety, the Court will Order the return of the children to where is considered their “habitual place of residence” to permit the local Court and local Family Law system to determine the ultimate living arrangements for the children.   Indeed this is the only decision which the Family Court in Brisbane has made in the case known and reported as Garning & Director-General, Department of Communities (Child Safety Services) [2012]FamCAFC 35).

Whilst the media has focused on the sensational aspects of the “hot” case of the moment (without reporting the full facts and circumstances of the matter), it’s reporting has brought to the attention of the public a relatively unknown aspect of Family Law and has also highlighted the assistance that the Australian Government can and will provide to those whose children have been wrongfully removed from Australia to another country who also is a “Convention” country.

It is important that swift action is taken in such circumstances and accordingly should you or anyone you know need assistance regarding international child abduction or relocating with children from Australia or within Australia, or any other area of family law then we look forward to being able to providing that assistance.

For more information, please contact our office on 1800 621 071 or complete our online enquiry form by clicking here.

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