Australia: Push to curb abductions by parents

Source: The Courier-Mail  June 13, 2011

UNDER CONSIDERATION: Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland says the Government is considering increasing penalties for parents who keep their children overseas for longer than an agreed period.

NEW laws are being considered to stem the flow of children abducted from Australia by parents.

Three children are illegally taken overseas each week in a “silent epidemic” of parental abductions.

Parents left behind face trauma, guilt and financial stress as they take on the emotional, complex and often futile task of having their children returned.

The Family Law Council has advised Attorney-General Robert McClelland that keeping children overseas, beyond an agreed period, should be made a criminal offence that could attract a jail term.

Current legislation does not cover the situation where a parent takes a child overseas with the other parent’s consent, but then keeps the child abroad.

Mr McClelland said the council’s submission “had some weight” and was under “serious consideration”.

He said failing to return a child could be an offence added to section 65 of the Act.

“A situation when a child is taken out of the country voluntarily, or with consent, for instance for a holiday or to visit overseas relatives and … is kept overseas that’s certainly an issue the Government is looking at,” he said. “We’ll be looking at what we’re doing with a bunch of family law amendments … including the violence amendments.”

The Council recommended the Family Law Act (1975) be amended to include wrongful retentions.

“Council also recommends that the Act be amended to … include parents who remove a child without the requisite consent or authority in circumstances where Family Dispute Resolution has been initiated, or an invitation to participate in Family Dispute Resolution has been received,” the advice said.

“International parental child abduction has serious implications for public policy, the welfare of children and access to justice.”

Mr McClelland urged parents worried about child abductions to act fast.

“We could do more work in promoting the preventative measures parents can take, such as getting their children on the airport watch list,” he said.

“The Family Court’s becoming a little more proactive. They will much more quickly hear applications for people to get their kids placed on the airport watch list …

“The first thing is (for parents) to think carefully before they give consent for a passport to be issued in a child’s name.

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