Australian Child Relocation & Abduction Problems

Posted by Jeremy Morley | Jun 23, 2008 | 0 Comments

There seems to be a rash of child abductions out of Australia -- although perhaps this is simply because many Australian cases are coming my way.

My theory is that it is partly a result of the recent changes in Australian child custody law.

The main and eminently laudable objective of the 2006 amendments to Australia's Family Law Act was to ensure that the best interests of children are met by ensuring they have the benefit of both of their parents having a meaningful involvement in their lives, "to the maximum extent consistent with the best interests of the child.” Section 60B(1)(b) Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006.

A consequence of the new law is that child relocation is now extremely difficult in Australia, leading to desperate measures.

Consider a typical scenario of an American, British or Canadian woman marrying her gorgeous Aussie guy and discovering after she has moved over there and had a baby that he is not the man she thought he was.

He may be violent, or he may have lost his job, or he may be a womanizer, or he may not help her with child care -- or all of the above. They may live in a remote town or distant suburb. She will likely have no family or social support. They break up and she is suddenly alone, a single parent who is scared, broke and lonely. She desperately wants to "go home," to the community where her parents, extended family and lifelong friends live and where she is qualified to get a reasonable job.

A similar fact scenario if brought to court in a U.S., Canadian or U.K. court might very well lead to a relocation order in favor of the mother, provided she allows substantial contact with the father.

However, the result in Australia may well be completely different. Her relocation application will likely be denied if her husband objects and makes some effort to see the child.

At that point Australia becomes a prison for her and she may be tempted to run home regardless of the law. Given the power of the Hague Convention she will then after a heartbreaking trial be forced to return her child to Australia, which means that she will have little choice but to go back also, but now she is branded a child kidnapper and she faces a judgment for the father's legal fees and expenses on top of having already prevailed on her family to have invested their life savings in the effort to keep her and the baby home in the States.

Something needs to change.

About the Author

Jeremy Morley

Jeremy D. Morley was admitted to the New York Bar in 1975 and concentrates on international family law. His firm works with clients around the world from its New York office, with a global network of local counsel. Mr. Morley is the author of "International Family Law Practice,...


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