The Australian Federal Government announced reforms that will allow Australian Federal Courts to consider threats of domestic and family violence in international child abduction cases before return orders are made.
Currently under International Law, domestic and family violence was not an aspect Australian Federal Courts needed to take into consideration when assessing applications for the return of a child. This effectively allowed abusive ex-partners to weaponise the convention against the other parent who has crossed international borders with their children. When a return application was considered by the court, it often resulted in the child being ordered to return to the parent who filed the return application.
Domestic and family violence is now a relevant consideration Australian Federal Courts can consider when dealing with international child abduction. Additionally, the court does not need to be satisfied that violence has occurred or will occur before it is taken into consideration.
In a recent case that prompted the Federal Government to address the issue of domestic and family violence in international child abduction cases, a First Nations woman lost her case after a return order was granted. In her case, she was in an abusive relationship with a man and became pregnant. Using coercive control, he manipulated her to visit him in Europe and then lodged an application for a return order after she and her daughter fled back to Australia at the first possible opportunity.
Unlike Australian Family Law principles where the best interest of the child is paramount, The Hague convention, which is over 40 years old, was originally designed to address the issue of noncustodial fathers removing children. It wasn’t designed to consider the impact domestic and family violence has on a child and the welfare of the parent who has fled the situation.
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