After a family separation, we began attending to our client’s property settlement matter. In the meantime, our client’s estranged wife took their two children out of Australia to her place of birth and left them in the care of the maternal grandparents. Our client’s estranged wife then returned to Australia without the children. The children are both Australian citizens and quite young.
Our client did not consent to the children’s travel and was seriously concerned for their welfare in the care of elderly maternal grandparents in a country foreign to the children.
In basic terms, The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction provides an agreed process for applications for return of children from one signatory country to the Convention (“Hague Convention country”), to another Hague Convention country.
A major problem for our client and his children was that the children were not residing in a Hague Convention country.
Whilst we immediately commenced drafting court documents, we also made contact with the Australian Consulate in the country where the children were, who’s staff agreed to provide assistance if and when necessary.
As a potential contingency, we reviewed agreements between the two countries to ascertain whether there was an agreed process between the countries for return of the children ‘abducted’ from one country to the other. Unfortunately, there was nothing substantial that could give confidence to such a process, largely because of deteriorating international relations involving the country the children were now currently in.
At the same time, we wrote to the mother’s solicitor and informed them of our client’s intentions and ability to provide his resources for the care of the children and our concerned efforts into having the children return to Australia immediately.
After lengthy exchanges of some very directly worded correspondence, a couple of heated phone conversations between solicitors and certain steps we took, we secured an agreement from the mother that the children would return to Australia immediately.
Our client flew to the country in which the children had been taken to, whereupon the children were delivered to him and they subsequently returned home to Australia. The children now remain in our client’s care until the matter is finalised.