If your ex-partner takes your children overseas and does not return with them, or leaves with the children without your knowledge, you may need to make an application for their return to Australia. This is known as a ‘Hague Convention Application’.

An application can only be made if the country to where you suspect your children have been taken is a party to the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, known as “the Hague Convention”. Australia is a member of, and has recognised by law, the Hague Convention.

Your application must be supported by a document that establishes that you have parental responsibility for your children and the children are ‘ordinarily resident’ in Australia.  This term has a complex legal definition.  Once your application and supporting documents have been completed, they are sent to the Australian Central Authority (ACA), which is Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department. The ACA will make a determination as to whether your children are ‘ordinarily resident’ in Australia.

If your application is successful, it will be forwarded to the foreign Central Authority (FCA) of the country in which your children are located. If the FCA accepts the application but your ex-partner chooses to contest the decision, he or she will have to do so in a foreign Court. If the foreign Court determines that your children are ‘ordinarily resident’ in Australia, that Court will order your children’s return. 

If an application to the ACA is unsuccessful, you still have the opportunity to apply directly to the FCA to make a determination. If neither the ACA nor the FCA determines your children are ‘ordinarily resident’ in Australia, the only remaining course is to initiate proceedings in the foreign Court.

If you find yourself in a similar situation as detailed above, it is vital to contact a legal professional as early as possible.  The family lawyers at Craddock Murray Neumann can assist with Hauge Convention Applications.

The law is complex and it changes frequently. The law may have changed since this article was published.

Blog Author:  Angus Verheul