International Custody and Abductions

Can you go to jail for helping parents abduct their own children? A few people in Australia face criminal charges for violation of international custody orders and could go to jail on child abduction charges.

International Custody

Who Can it be Now?

A vigilante group that allegedly financed and assisted women in Australia to abduct their own children and keep them hidden in violation of international custody orders issued by family courts in Australia has been caught by police.

Police charge the group with using many tactics, including: dyeing their hair, changing their names and altering their dates of birth

Police allege that for the past decade the group, headed by a doctor, has operated a sophisticated syndicate of “like-minded people”, who used clandestine methods to abduct and move children around the country.

Hague International Child Abduction

I’ve written on international custody issues, and specifically the Hague treaty on International Child Abduction, and will be speaking on the subject at the prestigious AAML Florida Bar Certification Review Course in Orlando in January.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction provides remedies for a “left-behind” parent. The Convention seeks to deter abducting parents by eliminating their primary motivation for doing so: to “deprive the abduction parent’s actions of any practical or juridical consequences.”

The removal or the retention of a child is to be considered wrongful where:

  • a child is removed from his or her country of habitual residence and the removal is in breach of rights of custody under the law of the State in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention; and
  • at the time of removal or retention those rights were actually exercised, either jointly or alone, or would have been so exercised but for the removal or retention.

So, when a child under 16 who was habitually residing in one signatory country is wrongfully removed to, or retained in, another signatory country, the Hague Convention provides that the other country: “order the return of the child forthwith” and “shall not decide on the merits of rights of custody.”

Throw a few on the barbie

This is a very big international custody and child abduction case. Four people have been charged over organizing and financing an abduction syndicate which allegedly assisted in the parental abduction of children against international custody orders. Police have also identified a yacht, purchased and re-fitted for $140,000, used to transport abducted children to New Zealand or South Africa.

During the two-year investigation, 10 missing children were safely located in the custody of a parent who had abducted them. Five of those were reportedly linked to the syndicate.

It is alleged the group did not go by any name, but operated on a “word-of-mouth” basis, using a variety of encrypted phone applications to communicate and to

“The actions of this group do not protect children. What it does is potentially endanger the safety and wellbeing of them.”

The Sydney Morning Herald article is here.