DIVORCE: CHILD CUSTODY: International Child Abduction

On Tuesday 12 April 2016 Sally Faulkner, along with the Australian “60 Minutes” television crew, including reporter Tara Brown, were arrested in Lebanon for allegedly trying to take Ms Faulkner’s children Noah aged four years, and Lahela aged six years, from their father Ali el-Amien.

The TV crew were in Beirut to film and interview Brisbane mother Ms Faulkner, who was trying to be reunited with her children. Ms Faulkner had been involved with negotiations with the father through their respective lawyers in a bid to gain access to their children.

CCTV footage appeared to show the children being snatched from their paternal grandmother in the street by a group of masked men and bundled into a car. The children were then handed over to Ms Faulkner, however a short time later Ms Faulkner and the television crew were arrested. The children were returned to their father.

A private child recovery agency is believed to be involved and had intended to smuggle the children out of Lebanon on a boat.

Ms Faulkner and the other detainees face charges of kidnapping, physical assault, hiding information and criminal conspiracy. Judge Rami Abdullah has said “There was a violation of the Lebanese authority by all these people, it’s a crime.”

The children were allegedly taken to Lebanon by their father in early 2015. The lawyer for Ms Faulkner will ask the Beirut Court to enforce an Australian Family Court ruling made in December 2015, that Ms Faulkner have sole parental responsibility and sole care of the children. The father is said to have sole care of the children under Lebanese law.

A case such as this highlights the importance of ensuring that in the event you and the mother or father your children have separated, and the other parent is proposing to take the children overseas, you should ensure that the country they are travelling to is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Countries that are signatories to the Hague Convention have agreed that in the event a child is removed from the country that is their habitual place of residence, the country to which the child has been taken, will order that the child be returned to the country they were residing. If a country is not a signatory to the Hague Convention then, unless the other parent voluntarily returns with the child, you have no avenue in which to have the child returned to you and many parents resort to the actions of Ms Faulkner.

For the list of countries that are signatories to the Hague Convention see:

https://www.ag.gov.au/FamiliesAndMarriage/Families/InternationalFamilyLaw/Pages/HagueConventionontheCivilAspectsofInternationalChildAbduction.aspx

For further information regarding children and international travel see my article “Children Travelling Overseas… what you need to know” at:

http://www.koffels.com.au/ourarticles/2015/12/01/children-travelling-overseaswhat-you-need-to-know/