Child Abduction: Abduction law to punish fly-away dads and mothers


Stephanie Peatling, September 10, 2011

TOUGH laws to stop parents abducting and taking their children overseas are being considered by the federal government.

The Family Law Council has told the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, new criminal charges need to be created to punish parents.

”The [existing] legislation does not cover the situation where a parent takes a child overseas with the other parent’s consent or in accordance with a court order, but subsequently retains the child overseas beyond the agreed or authorised period,” said the council chairwoman, Associate Professor Helen Rhoades.

It also ”does not cover the situation where children are taken overseas without the other parent’s consent and no parenting orders have been sought from, or granted by, the courts. The question that arises is whether a parent’s behaviour in either or both of these circumstances should be criminalised.”

About 125 children are taken out of Australia each year, says the Attorney-General’s Department. In 2007, 147 were abducted overseas and in 2008 it was 138.The number fell to 95 in 2009 but rose to 125 last year. Under the Family Law Act, international parental child abduction carries a maximum three-year jail sentence.

The Family Law Council has also identified a loophole in the law because it does not cover situations in which children are taken overseas without the other parent’s consent but there is no involvement by the courts. This happens when the parents are still in a relationship. A parliamentary committee is examining whether tougher sanctions need to be introduced. It will report to the government next month, which is expected to respond later this year.

As many as 12,000 children are on an Australian Federal Police watch list as being potentially in danger of being taken out of the country. But the AFP believes the true figure is much lower because the names are not automatically removed once a child turns 18.

Angela Lynch, a committee member of Women’s Legal Services Australia, said special consideration needed to be made for parents trying to escape abusive relationships and parents who had moved away from their extended families.

”In our experience, many women flee home to family support when a separation occurs,” she said, adding: ”It is not in the public interest that such situations are criminally prosecuted. There are links with the need for domestic family laws to be accessible to enable women to have a choice to apply to a domestic court for international child relocation rather than fleeing home.”

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Increase In Parental Child Abduction From UK


8:26am UK, Wednesday June 29, 2011

The numer of abductions of British children by parents who then take them abroad has risen by 10% in the past year – prompting a campaign to combat the problem.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said the latest figures show one British child is taken every two days – a total of 161 in 2010/11.

The number taken to countries that have not signed up to an international treaty designed to ensure the return of minors who are wrongfully removed from the UK was up from 146 and 105 in the previous two years.

And it is feared the numbers may be even higher because of those that go unreported.

Countries that have not signed up to the 1980 Hague Convention are not compelled to abide by a UK court order.

The most obvious warning sign is a break down in a relationship but other signs may include a sudden interest in getting a passport or copy birth certificate for the child; a parent expressing a wish to holiday alone with the child.

FCO minister Jeremy Browne hopes the campaign will help people understand what they can do if they think their child may be at risk.

“The latest figures suggest the problem affects people from all walks of life and not just certain types of families or particular countries,” Mr Browne said.

“Finding a solution can be especially difficult if a child has been taken to a non-Hague country as there are no international systems in place to help you.

“This is why prevention is so important. The FCO will do whatever we can to provide advice and support but our role is limited, not least because we cannot interfere in the laws of another country.”

A child's bike

Evidence shows many abductions happen around school holidays when a parent refuses to return a child following a visit to the parent’s home country.

The problem has become widespread, with figures last year showing the FCO handled cases in 97 “non-Hague” countries ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

The message will be passed through websites Mumsnet and the Fatherhood Institute to spread the prevention message and make people aware of the support it can provide.

Sharon Cooke, from Reunite International Child Abduction Centre, said while sometimes there were no warning signs, there were things people could look for which might indicate their child was at risk.

“The most obvious warning sign is a breakdown in a relationship,” she said.

Jeremy Browne MP

FCO minister Jeremy Browne is backing the scheme

“Other signs may include a sudden interest in getting a passport or copy birth certificate for the child; a parent expressing a wish to holiday alone with the child; a change in circumstances such as leaving employment or redundancy, selling a house or giving up tenancy.

“There may also be a sudden change in contact arrangements or constant difficulty in being able to see the child.”

She added: “There’s often a perception – fuelled by a number of high profile cases – that it’s about fathers abducting their children.

“However, statistics show it is mainly mothers – either intentionally or unintentionally.

“The psychological impact on children can be traumatic and for the left-behind parent, the shock and loss are unbearable, particularly if they don’t know where their child is.”

:: Anyone worried their child might be at risk, or whose child has been abducted, can call the Child Abduction Section at the Foreign Office on 0207 008 0878.

People can also log on to the FCO’s website or contact Reunite on 0116 2556 234.

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Lesbians’ Child Custody Battle Turns Into International Manhunt


Monday, June 27, 2011
By JOHN CURRAN and FILADELFO ALEMAN, Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – Lisa Miller’s path from lesbian in committed relationship to international fugitive started in 2003.

She broke up with her partner, Janet Jenkins, renounced homosexuality and became an evangelical Christian before disappearing in 2009 with the daughter she had with Jenkins.

Now, what started as a custody battle over little Isabella Miller-Jenkins has turned into a global manhunt, with indications that Mennonite pastors and other faith-based supporters may have helped hide the two in Nicaragua and are now coming to the aid of one who the FBI says helped Miller.

Eager to keep the girl away from Jenkins and what they consider a dangerous and immoral lifestyle, they liken their roles to that of underground helpers aiding runaway slaves.

“God’s Holy Law never recognizes a gay marriage,” said Pablo Yoder, a Mennonite pastor in Nicaragua, in an email message to The Associated Press. “Thus, the Nicaraguan Brotherhood felt it right and good to help Lisa not only free herself from the so called civil marriage and lesbian lifestyle, but especially to protect her nine year old daughter from being abducted and handed over to an active lesbian and a whole-hearted activist.”

As the gay marriage movement gains momentum in the U.S. with impending legal recognition of the relationships in New York state, the case is a reminder of the obstacles and opposition that same-sex couples and their families can face.

The saga began in 2000, when Miller and Jenkins were joined in a civil union in Vermont. Two years later, Miller gave birth to the girl, through artificial insemination. The couple split in 2003, with Miller renouncing her homosexuality and becoming a Baptist, then a Mennonite.

Miller was originally granted custody of the girl, but her defiance of visitation schedules led courts in Vermont and Virginia to rule in favor of Jenkins, culminating in a judge’s 2009 decision to award custody to Jenkins.

After Miller and the girl failed to show for a court-ordered custody swap on Jan. 1, 2010, to hand the girl over to Jenkins, the hunt was on. A federal arrest warrant was issued for Miller, and her daughter’s name was added to the missing by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

But they were long gone: In 2009, two months before the judge ordered the custody change, Miller and the girl flew to Central America and took up residence for an unknown amount of time in Nicaragua before vanishing again.

So says the FBI, which revealed in April that it had arrested Nicaraguan missionary Timothy David “Timo” Miller and charged him with abetting an international kidnapping by helping arrange travel and lodging for the two. He is awaiting trial.

According to the FBI, Timo Miller — no relation to Lisa Miller — arranged to fly Miller and her daughter from Canada to Augusto C. Sandino International Airport in Managua.

He’d never met her until they arrived at the airport, according to Loyal Martin, a friend of Timo Miller’s.

Timo Miller has pleaded not guilty and is free on $25,000 bail, awaiting trial. His attorney, federal public defender Steven Barth, won’t discuss the case. Another lawyer for Timo Miller, Jeffrey Conrad, of Lancaster, Pa., didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“Tim believes there is a higher law than the laws of any country that all people, including himself, are accountable to,” said Martin, 40, of Philadelphia, N.Y., who attended Miller’s first court appearance.

In an April 1 affidavit outlining the charge against Timo Miller, FBI agent Dana Kaegel noted the involvement of various religious groups and people involved — in some fashion — with Miller.

At a minimum, she appears to have had the support in the Mennonite community outside the capital of Managua.

Yoder, who works the remote village of Waslala, 161 miles from Managua, told The Associated Press she celebrated her daughter’s birthday in his house last year. He wouldn’t say more.

“She came here to have a good time, and we allowed her to celebrate her daughter’s birthday in my house because of the love we have for the girl,” Pablo Yoder said.

Yoder, who is mentioned in the FBI’s affidavit over an email exchange with Timo Miller planning the party, told the AP in an interview he couldn’t remember how long she stayed. She slept at the house of another pastor, according to Yoder, who would not name that person for fear it would lead to questioning by police.

Members of the church made a pact not to reveal any details to protect Timothy David Miller.

“We want to remain silent because we do not know whether it would cause him problems,” Yoder said. “The moment may arrive when we are going to want to talk, when we deem it necessary to tell Nicaragua the true story.”

Nicaraguan police haven’t questioned Yoder and other members of his church, he said in an interview last month.

“They know we are not involved in this matter,” said Yoder, who likens the help given to Lisa Miller to aid given by Mennonites and Quakers to the aid abolitionists gave runaway slaves.

Richard Huber, of Myerstown, Pa., a friend of Timo Miller’s who agreed to assume custody of him after his first court appearance, sees Timo Miller’s actions as faith-based.

“Choosing to heed God’s law over man’s would be an accurate way of putting it,” he said in an email message.

Miller may have gotten help from others drawn to her predicament for religious reasons.

The lawyer for Miller’s ex-partner, Janet Jenkins, told the FBI she got a call in June 2010 from someone — she won’t say who — who told her that Lisa Miller and the girl had stayed in a beach house in coastal San Juan del Sur, about 68 miles south of Managua.

The house is owned by Philip Zodhiates, the father of Liberty University law school administrative assistant Victoria Hyden, according to the FBI. Jenkins’ attorney, Sarah Star, told the FBI that the caller told her Zodhiates had asked his daughter to put out a request for supplies for Lisa Miller.

Located in Lynchburg, Va., Liberty University was founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. An affiliate of the university, conservative Christian law firm Liberty Counsel, formerly represented Miller in her court case in Vermont over custody of the girl.

Law school dean Mathew Staver — who leads Liberty Counsel — has said Zodhiates isn’t affiliated with either.

“From our perspective, she just dropped off the face of the Earth. We haven’t heard from her or from anyone who said they’ve heard from her,” Staver said of Lisa Miller.

Miller, 42, is wanted by the FBI and Interpol, which recently requested the help of Nicaraguan police in the search. U.S. Embassy officials in Nicaragua said they don’t know where she is.

“We have clues, but we do not want to reveal them so as not to hinder our investigation,” Fernando Borge, spokesman for the Nicaraguan national police, told the AP last month. “We can’t say either, at the moment, whether she is or is not in the country.”

A security guard at the hotel Royal Chateau in San Juan del Sur, Juan Garcia, told the AP last month he remembered seeing Miller and her daughter seated along the waterfront.

Back in Vermont, Jenkins waits for word on their whereabouts, a break in the case — or both.

“It is hard to understand how anyone could consider a childhood on the run better and more stable than one surrounded by family, with two parents and two sets of grandparents who can provide love and support,” Jenkins, who declined to be interviewed for this story, said in an email.

Timo Miller, meanwhile, awaits trial on the abetting count, which could send him to prison for three years. For now, he and his wife and their four children are staying in Pennsylvania, with Huber.

Supporters have rallied to Timo Miller’s his side. At his April 25 court appearance in federal court in Burlington, Vt., dozens of supporters turned out.

More than $30,000 has been raised for his legal defense fund, and donors have provided he and his family with a minivan and an apartment, according to http://www.timomiller.org, the Timothy Miller Family Support Network’s website.

“When Isabella was about 18 months old, Lisa Miller realized the emptiness of her lesbian lifestyle, and her mother’s instinct alerted her to the danger that lifestyle posed for her young daughter. She chose to leave that lifestyle, repented of her immoral ways, and began a new life,” according to the website.

Star calls Miller’s actions kidnapping. She doesn’t buy the idea of civil disobedience.

“My understanding is that civil disobedience is an act of defiance against a government. Janet Jenkins is not the government, she is a mother who is worried sick about her daughter.”

——

Associated Press correspondent Filadelfo Aleman reported from Nicaragua.

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Parental Kidnapping – What to Do When the Other Parent Will Not Return the Child


I hope you never need this article. Very rarely does it happen, but there are times that one parent goes off the deep end and decides that the Orders of the Court are not meant for them.

Children are taken out of school, hidden at relatives’ homes, and secreted from the “custodial” parent. (In this context custodial means the parent who should have that child during that time frame or the parent with the majority contact time.)

The first step is to make sure that the current Order is clear and specific enough to be enforceable. Whether law enforcement will assist when one parent violates a court ordered contact schedule has a lot to do with how clearly written it is. Even with the most clearly written order there are times that law enforcement will not want to get involved. This is when the Court needs to be contacted. Emergency Motions are some of the most overused motions around.

Judges hate them because 1) everyone wants to call every bad situation an emergency and domestic cases are nothing but bad situations and 2) because they are being asked to make decisions without letting the other side tell their story. If there is a remedy for the violation (if that parent should not have had this two weeks of summer, but the judge could take other time away from the offender without harm to the child) short of asking the Judge to take the child via police, that is the road to go down. Judges can punish violations with Orders for attorneys fees, extra time for the other parent, moving to supervised or having other parameters or limitations…without having to traumatize a child with a ride in a police car.

If there is no remedy that will truly keep the child safe, in the event of escalating obvious mental health issues and increasingly bold violations..the Court can enter a Pick Up Order. This court order will describe the child and the parent who has them wrongfully, and it will authorize the police to pick the child up. The Order should be drafted to include all the places the child could reasonably be, with the most obvious listed first.

The Order may indicate that law enforcement is authorized to enter a home in order to find the child, and that they can do this at any hour. Without this provision, most law enforcement agencies are going to “stake out” a home only. If the person has taken the child to other locations, it may be necessary to hire a PI to attempt to find them and then call in law enforcement to pick up the child..many police agencies are just too overworked to spend days or even hours trying to hunt up parents who have stolen their children.

Ultimately, there are remedies in these situations, but the process can take a while and can be scary in the meantime. It is important to understand that long term, the parents who follow court orders, who show respect to the Judge’s determinations and work within the system will long term get much better results. Once a parent pushes things to the point of requiring this type of action, they have usually lost the Judge’s trust and are working against themselves.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/3651962

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Abducted to The Philippines – Parental Child Abduction


The Philippines is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
Hundreds of American parents face a similar plight, fighting from within the United States to bring home children they say were kidnapped and taken abroad by the other parent. The U.S. State Department is handling roughly 1,000 international parental kidnapping cases, including seven that involve children taken to the Philippines.

Many parents left behind face linguistic, cultural, geographical and legal barriers. Often, the spouse is a citizen, or can become a citizen, of the country to which he or she has fled and is entitled to that country’s protection.

The Philippines sees parental kidnapping as a custody dispute, not a crime. And the country isn’t party to the international treaty that created a process for resolving such disputes.

The Philippine government says it cooperates with U.S. law enforcement and consular officials to locate children alleged to have been abducted and check on their welfare. The officials also can help negotiate a return. But in many cases, the decision on whether the children should be sent back to the parent in the United States falls to the courts.


You should contact your local police station if your child has been taken overseas without your consent or if you fear your child will be abducted

There are 3 broad categories of child abduction:

  • Abduction – where a child is taken overseas without the other parent’s consent – this may be a criminal offense.
  • Wrongful retention – where a child has been retained in a foreign country following an overseas trip
  • Threat of abduction – where there is a risk that a child will be taken overseas
Note:
The Philippines is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between the Philippines and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction. Therefore, there is no treaty remedy by which the left behind parent would be able to pursue recovery of the child/ren should they be abducted to or wrongfully retained in the Philippines. Once in the Philippines, the child/ren would be completely subject to Philippine law for all matters including custody.
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Plan to sign Hague Convention welcome but children’s best interests should come first


Source: The Mainichi Daily News
Japan’s new policy of signing the Hague Convention that stipulates the treatment of children from failed international marriages in custody disputes has been approved by Cabinet ministers, with Prime Minister Naoto Kan planning to announce the decision at a G8 Summit set to take place in France on May 26 and 27.

Officially called the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction or the Hague Abduction Convention, the treaty went into effect in 1983, and counts 84 countries, primarily in the West, as its signatories.

According to the Hague Convention, if a child is removed from their country of habitual residence and a parent petitions for the child’s return to that country, the government of the country to where the child has been taken has the responsibility of cooperating with the child’s return and in negotiations for talks between the respective parents’ parties.

Japan has been facing increasing pressure from Western nations to sign the treaty because of a significant number of cases in which Japanese mothers removed their children from other countries and returned to Japan. The Japanese Foreign Ministry has set up opportunities for periodic consultation with parties from both the U.S. and France — citizens of which Japan nationals have shown to have a great number of custody disputes — and have consulted on a total of 130 individual cross-border custody cases.

In some cases, bringing a child back to Japan without consent from the other parent has resulted in parents facing charges of abduction. That many such parents claim to be victims of domestic violence complicates these cases even further, and such allegations of abuse make the argument that joining the convention raises concerns for the protection of Japanese citizens and goes against the child’s interests understandable.

Meanwhile, Japanese partners whose children have been removed from Japan have pushed for Japan to sign the treaty, with hopes that it would help resolve their own custody disputes.

The Hague Convention includes special exemptions, including one that states that a child does not have to be returned to their country of habitual residence in cases where doing so would pose a great risk of physical or emotional pain for them. This exemption is key.

According to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, of the approximately 800 cases of child custody suits around the world in which a parent is seeking the child’s return, the abovementioned exemption has been permitted in 30 percent of cases — ruling that the children did not have to be returned.

These special cases include those in which there remain the chances of a mother becoming a victim of domestic violence if she and her child were to return to their country of habitual residence; or if the child were to return on their own but would suffer if separated from the mother; or in cases in which the child cannot be expected to receive sufficient care upon return. From these cases, it is apparent that courts of various countries around the world are taking a relatively flexible approach to the convention.

Signing the convention and searching for solutions based on internationally-recognized rules is an unavoidable path for Japan. Yet, we must protect our citizens based on the actual nature of each case in a way that adheres with the treaty.

Whether or not a child brought to Japan should be returned to their previous country of residence will be decided by Japanese courts based on the law. The government is set to add a provision to its Hague-Convention bill indicating that in cases that involve allegations of child abuse or of domestic violence by one partner against another, the child can be stopped from being returned to their country of habitual residence.

One of the major factors at the base of cross-border custody disputes is the difference in how custody is perceived. Joint custody is common in many of the convention’s signatory nations, with children often going back and forth between their divorced parents. In Japan, however, sole custody is more common, and is often granted to the mother.

As the number of international marriages continues to rise, we must think about what really constitutes our children’s best interests.

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We Recover Internationally Abducted Children


We can bring your child back !

International Child Abduction is tragically a global epidemic.

Leading experts believe that due to the rapid growth in multi-national marriages and relationships, the number of children born from parents of different countries will continue to expand. Similar to all relationships, a significant portion of these marriages or partnerships will end in divorce. All too often, one of the separating parents of the child of the relationship will seek to abduct the child to a country other than where the child has lived. This is called ‘International Parental Child Abduction’, and though there are various civil remedies available to targeted parents who have had their child abducted, the challenges they face are grave, and include first and foremost, locating where the child is located.

Unfortunately for the majority of targeted parents, the financial burden for recovery and litigation falls on their shoulders. With tens of thousands of children parentally abducted each year, the reality is too many of these children never come home. ABP World Group is dedicated to assisting parents in need of assistance in locating, rescuing, and safely bringing home your abducted child.

Our intelligence and investigation abilities combined with our ability to dispatch personnel to most locations in the world offer a safe and strategic solution to protecting your most important asset: your child.

Areas of expertise:

Parental abduction.

Missing children.

Kidnappings.

Runaway children.

Reunification Counseling.

Unfortunately in this day and time parental kidnapping happens and we are here to help you trough this difficult period. We are aware parental child abduction can be difficult to resolve, but we use professional operatives with the skills and expertise to help find a resolution.

One key to ABP World Group’s successful recovery and re-unification of your loved one is to use all necessary means available including, but not limited to:

Electronic Forensic Foot printing Investigations

Intelligence Gathering

Information Specialists/Skip Tracing

Evidence Procurement

Interview/Evaluation

Surveillance Special Ops

Non-Combatant Evacuation Ops

Domestic Support

International Operations

Maritime/Land/Air transport

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English courts will continue to send home children brought here wrongfully


The UK takes seriously its obligations under the Hague convention dealing with parents who abduct their children

Eight years old girl with hand in back pocket of her father who has arm protectively about her

The Hague convention was drawn up with parents who flee overseas with their children in mind. Photograph: Ken Welsh/Alamy

More than 30 years ago the Hague convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction was drawn up with its authors “desiring to protect children internationally from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal” from their home country. The convention requires signatory countries to return children who have been unilaterally removed abroad so that the courts in their home countries can decide on the future arrangements for them.

The typical case the framers of the treaty had in mind was one in which a parent snatched a child away from its primary carer and fled overseas. Now, with relationships between people of different nationalities more commonplace, the situation is often that one of the parents takes the children back to his or her country of origin. That was the position in Re E, a case decided by the supreme court last week.

Historically the English courts, in contrast to those of a number of other signatories, have taken their treaty obligations very seriously and, applying the convention strictly, have returned children to their countries of habitual residence. In doing so they have frequently rejected a mother’s attempt to rely on the limited exceptions to the convention obligations, most commonly that a return would expose the child to a grave risk of physical or psychological harm.

The British mother in Re E who had left her allegedly violent Norwegian husband to come with the children to England was ordered by a high court judge to return, with safeguards being put in place pending a court decision in Oslo. The mother appealed, arguing that the convention conflicted with her own and her children’s article 8 rights to private and family life (under the European convention on human rights) and with the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, which requires any action concerning children to be determined in accordance with their best interests.

Given the English courts’ traditional adherence to the aims of the Hague convention, it is not surprising that the supreme court rejected the mother’s appeal in Re E and ordered her and the children’s return to Norway. In doing so it reasserted the principles that have underpinned the traditional approach, that one parent’s unilateral actions should not be allowed to pre-empt a legitimate dispute about a child’s future and that a home country’s courts are likely to be best placed to assess the evidence and information surrounding such a dispute.

The supreme court’s decision is arguably at odds with the judgment of the European court of human rights in Neulinger, in which the Strasbourg court decided that, even where there was no grave risk, a forced return could interfere with the mother’s and child’s right to a private and family life. The Neulinger decision suggests that the country being asked to return a child to its home country should undertake the investigation into the best future arrangements for the child.

The English court has reconciled the conflict, asserting that the convention is consistent with the article 8 right to private and family life; the supreme court decided that the convention properly balances the two key aspects of a child’s best interests in the context of wrongful removal from their home country: to be reunited with their parents and to be brought up in a safe environment.

What this means in practice is that the English courts will continue to be reluctant to refuse the return of a child wrongfully brought here from overseas. Whether other signatories of the convention will be as strict in its application remains to be seen. The list of member countries continues to grow – Japan recently ratified the convention and India is under pressure to do the same soon. How they and other countries will reconcile their treaty obligations with those imposed by other instruments of international law is unclear.

Joe Vaitilingam is a partner at Hughes Fowler Carruthers solicitors, specialising in financial and children issues arising on divorce

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Help us bring our children home


Source: The Courier-Mail, June 14, 2011

RAISING AWARENESS: Ken Thompson cycled 6500km across Europe in a desperate bid to find his son. Picture: AP Source: AP

HUNDREDS of desperate mums and dads are fighting to have their kids returned to Australia amid the “silent epidemic” of international parental abduction. Three children are taken from our shores each week and the 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.

International help is available under the Hague Convention for the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. However, the process can be largely fruitless if the fleeing parent takes the child to an unco-operative country such as Brazil or Chile, or a country not yet party to the treaty such as Japan. Last year, 125 children were wrongfully removed from Australia to another Hague Convention country, with 74 returned. Another 29 were abducted to non-convention countries. These are the cases authorities know of, with family dispute experts saying the true number could be double official figures.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland told The Courier-Mail parental child abductions were “not uncommon”. “I think each and every MP who’s been here for a while would have seen an example in their electorate,” he said. The scale of the issue has been widely reflected in social media, with hundreds of Facebook pages and social networking campaigns dedicated to finding parentally abducted children.

The Courier-Mail has spoken to five parents – including four Queenslanders – who are fighting for their kids’ return. A Townsville-born dad, who lives in the US, has vowed to get his two-year-old son back from Brazil or “die trying” after his wife of seven years took their boy to Rio de Janeiro for a two-week holiday and never returned.

“Child abduction for the left-behind parent is like waterboarding,” he said. “The frustration, the worry, the missing each day of his life is all-consuming.” In separate cases spanning seven years, four fathers said their former Japanese spouses had abducted their kids after the Family Court granted the mothers permission to take the children to Japan for a holiday. George, from the Gold Coast, said he lived solely to see his two sons again after they were abducted to Japan in 2004. “To be honest, I even got so depressed for two years, I nearly killed myself,” he said. “The only thing (left-behind parents) can do is support each other.

No one’s helping us.” Daniel, from Sydney, said his former wife abducted their two-year-old son to Japan last year, after they separated, because she disagreed with Australian custody laws. “That was not how she wanted to live her life. It just didn’t fit into her plans,” he said. International Social Service Australia national services manager Helen Freris said the ratio of mums and dads abducting children was roughly equal. “The two main reasons given are a belief it’s the only way to protect a child and the other overarching category involves revenge towards the other parent,” she said.

Whatever the motive, child abduction had long-term psychological impacts on the child and left-behind parent. “It can impact the child’s sense of safety, security and stability in their living arrangements,” Ms Freris said. “There are also the economic implications … initiating legal proceedings in the country where the child has been taken can be costly,” she said. Former NSW deputy fire chief Ken Thompson said he had experienced shock, disbelief, anxiety, depression and uncertainty when his six-year-old son Andrew was abducted in 2008.

The Sydney father – who raised awareness of the issue by cycling 6500km across Europe in a desperate bid to find his son – said parental abduction was “incredibly cruel” to children, as well as left-behind parents. “It’s recognised as one of the most extreme forms of child abuse because you’ve taken that child away from everything … and in a lot of cases they lose contact with both sides (of the family) because the parent’s in hiding,” he said. “The number of people who are damaged by this phenomenon is just extraordinary. “It’s not just the left-behind parent. “It’s the other family members, friends, colleagues. “Not knowing where your child is has got to be the worst thing you can possibly experience.” To other left-behind parents, Mr Thompson said: “You’ve just got to keep focused on finding the child and working through whatever legal processes are available to have the child returned. “You’ve also got to raise public awareness to the plight of the child.”

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Parents sick of waiting for ‘child abduction’ action


Source: The Courier-Mail June 13, 2011

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.”

Families torn apart: Meet the parents fighting to see their kids again, only in The Courier-Mail tomorrow  

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