Frank warning to parents who abduct their own kids
A LAW firm has issued a scathing message to parents who abduct their own children in defiance of court orders; "you get what you deserve".
And the punishment could be harsher than you'd think.
The warning comes in the wake of a recent high-profile parental abduction case in which a father abducted three children and vanished for more than a year before being caught.
Brisbane Family Law specialist Jennifer Hetherington has warned judges were now taking a harder stance against parents who ignore legal orders.
"The sentencing is a shock reminder to parents that they can face jail time when caught," Ms Hetherington said.
She cited a number of recent cases saying the high-profile recovery in New South Wales - in which a father abducted three children aged 11, 12 and 13 - had renewed public focus in the issue.
To find the children, who had been missing for almost a year, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia issued a recovery notice and made public identifying details including photographs while calling on the general public to report information on the children's whereabouts.
The father was arrested a short time later.
In a separate incident, a Brisbane mother was sentenced to prison for 18 months after abducting her two children, hiding for three years despite a custody arrangement.
The children's 74-year-old grandmother, who has cancer, was also jailed for a minimum of three months as she kept the location of her daughter and grandchildren secret.
Ms Hetherington said the arrest of the runaway mum focused public awareness on the reality that parents who do such things would inevitably be caught.
She said prison and losing custody were just the start of the consequences with the ongoing and unseen psychological impact on the children involved potentially far worse.
"These latest examples are a rude wakeup call for any parent contemplating such a move," Ms Hetherington said.
"The lesson to be learned from this is; if you grab the kids and flee, you will be caught eventually. If you think the children need your protection, well you can't help them from jail.
"Being a parent on the run is not a comforting notion and it's not a Hollywood movie scenario either. How do you survive financially? People can be found through Centrelink records.
"If you are totally living 'off the grid' imagine what this must do to your children. How do you deal with school needs? How do they cope perhaps with not being able to make long lasting friendships? What damage does this do to their social interaction?
"Then there's the very real damage that can be done by denying them contact with the other parent. The Family Law Act says children have the right to know and have a relationship with both parents unless there is abuse.
"There are known examples of kids who were kept from one parent and ended up turning on the parent who kept them away due to resentment. They idealise the missing parent."
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She said anyone with an interest in the welfare of a child could apply for parenting orders where the court considers the child's best interest.
Sadly, children too often were caught up in tugs of war between warring parents, Ms Hetherington said.
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"I had a matter where mum removed her child from school to prevent dad's school holiday time. Another time she hid the child. The federal police had to go and get the child the second time. The court removed the child from her as a result.
"She made false allegations of domestic violence that police had investigated and found to be untrue.
"Her older daughters rejected her because she was so full of vitriol about the father. She refused to speak with her daughters if they went to see their father."