CONNECTIMPACT OF ABDUCTIONUnderstanding the impact onchildren and parents STAYING CONNECTEDPractical ideas and strategiesLOOKINGAFTER YOUA R E S O U R C E F O R F A T H E R S S E P A R A T E D F R O MT H I E R C H I L D R E N A C R O S S B O R D E R SFollowing the separation from your childrenINTERNATIONAL SOCIAL SERVICE (ISS) AUSTRALIA
CONTENTS0102030405060708CoverContentsAboutImpact of abductionLoss and griefLooking after yourselfStaying connected Video contact tipsT A B L E O F0910111213141516Hague ConventionHague - Application for returnHague - What happens next Hague - Application for accessNon Hague countriesWhat about the media?Where to get helpAdditional resourcesC O N N E C T
AboutP A G E 3C O N N E C TInternational Parental Child Abduction (IPCA) occurs when a parent takes a child to another countrywithout the other parent’s consent or refuses to return a child from overseas after an agreed periodof time. International Social Service Australia’s IPCA Legal Service and Social Work Service offerinformation, support and assistance to parents and families affected by IPCA, as well as othermatters related to separated families and international travel.I N T E R N A T I O N A L P A R E N T A L C H I L D A B D U C T I O NSocial Work (free)Legal Services (free)International Family Mediation (IFM)International Social Service (ISS)Australia supports children and familiesacross international borders. As the independent Australian arm of theInternational Social Service (ISS) network,ISS partners with over 140 ISSorganisations around the world. ISS Australia believes children andfamilies should be connected whereverthey are in the world. Our mission is tosupport, protect and reunite children andfamilies who have been separated byinternational borders.ISS Australia provide the followingexpert IPCA services:I N T E R N A T I O N A LS O C I A L S E R V I C EA U S T R A L I AThis resource has been developedfollowing 15 years of ISS Australia's SocialWork Service supporting parentsexperiencing International Parental ChildAbduction. It is the culmination of feedbackfrom many parents over many years whohave gone through similar experiences. C O N N E C T
Impact ofabductionInternational Parental Child Abduction (IPCA) is asignificant and disruptive experience for children. Research shows that children who have experiencedIPCA may strongly attach themselves or cling to theirtaking parent. Children may see their taking parent astheir primary source of consistency and support in anew and unknown environment. As a result, childrencan behave in ways that suggest a high dependenceon their taking parent. This can present in anxietyabout separating from the taking parent and, orrejection of their left behind parent. It is important to remember that children are reliant onthe adults in their lives to meet all of their emotional,physical and care needs. The disruption anduncertainty associated with IPCA may cause childrento over-align as a way of coping, to seek comfort andto feel safe during this difficult time. It is important forchildren's growth and development to be able to seekand receive comfort from the adults in their lives. P A G E 4C O N N E C T Each child's experience and reaction to IPCA is different and not all children will experience anyor all of the possible impacts mentioned here. A child's age, variations in length of time overseas,a child's understanding of international travel and contact with the left behind parent can all affecta child's experience of IPCA. Research has consistently found that the sooner the child is returned, the less of an impact IPCAhas on them. It is for this reason we encourage left behind parents to seek legal advice andengage with their lawyer as soon as possible. IMPACT ON CHILDRENISS Australia's expert IPCA Legal Service can provide assistance with all areas of theHague Convention. To speak to someone, call ISS Australia on 1300 657 843 orcomplete the online IPCA Legal Service intake form.
being physically and emotionally separated from yourchildthe inability to be present for significant events in yourchild's life such as, birthdays, school activities, holidaysand special occasionsbeing unable to care for your child, hold them or comfortthemlack of access to information about your child's healthand well-beingHaving a child taken or withheld overseas without a parent'sknowledge or consent may cause feelings of loss and grief.This can be one of the most difficult experiences in aparent's life. Feelings of loss and grief may arise from: Parents affected by IPCA may feel a range of emotionsincluding; shock, sadness, despair, numbness, anger,blame and/or a sense of injustice. It is not unusual to noticechanges in your behaviour, feel isolated or find it hard toconcentrate at work. A parent's physical health can also beimpacted, including loss or increase in appetite anddifficulty with sleep. If these things happen to you orsomeone you know, help is available. The kind of loss parents of abducted children feel can bereferred to as an “ambiguous loss”. Parents in thesesituations may be left searching for answers and otherpeople may not understand or recognise their grief andloss. It may be hard to know where to look for support andhow to find help, but it is available from our experiencedteam of social workers. divorce or separation from a partnerlosing a job or retiring terminal or chronic illnessmoving away or separation from family or friends Most of the time, people associate grief and loss with the death of a loved one. However, death isnot the only situation where we can experience grief. Any kind of change in life which results inloss can lead to feelings of grief. During the course of our lives, we can experience many differentchanges and losses, and what usually follows is grief. Situations of loss where people may experience grief can include: L O S S A N D G R I E F I NT H E C O N T E X T O F I P C ALoss and griefISS Australia's IPCASocial Work Service canprovide information,counselling, practical,emotional support andassistance. To speak tosomeone, call ISSAustralia on 1300 657 843 (option 1).P A G E 5C O N N E C T
Looking after yourselfP A G E 6C O N N E C TThe separation from a partner or a child is a significant life event that can impact a parent’s feelings,thoughts and behaviours. Research has found that there is an increased risk of suicidal thoughtsand behaviours following separation, especially for men. Having your child taken or retained overseas without your consent can trigger a range of feelingsincluding shock, anger, hopelessness, self-blame and isolation. It is important to seek help torecognise and manage these feelings and importantly, to keep yourself safe during this time. It isimportant not only for your own well-being, but also to ensure that you can be there for your childrenwhen they need you. If you are having thoughts about suicide, please call Suicide Call Back Service at any time of day ornight on 1300 659 467. B A R R I E R S T O S E E K I N G H E L PParents affected by International Parental Child Abduction may experience barriers to seekinghelp. Parents may feel embarrassed, a sense of stigma or shame about accessing services or notrecognise their need for help. Acknowledging that you may need professional support at this time can be confronting and ittakes a lot of courage and strength to take that first step. Everyone’s needs are different. Help isavailable regardless of where you live in Australia. ISS Australia provides a free social work and counselling service to support parents affected by International Parental Child Abduction. Keeping up with exercise Spending time with people who make you feel good Practicing meditation Listening to your favourite music Joining your local Men’s Shed or Men’s Table Chatting online or calling MensLine at any time of day or night Limiting your alcohol use (remember alcohol is a depressant) Practice sharing your feelings and expressing emotions with individuals and groups whereyou feel safe to do soInternational Parental Child Abduction can affect parents in a range of different ways. This caninclude your physical, mental, social and emotional well-being. Many parents can feel a sense ofloss, isolation and loneliness when their children have been taken overseas without their consent. In addition to accessing professional support, you can look after yourself in some of the followingways: For more information on where to get help, refer to page 12. T A K I N G C A R E O F Y O U
When you send letters and photos to your child, keep a copy so that you can showyour child what you did at the timeWrite down thoughts and feelings that you would feel comfortable sharing with yourchild in the future, so that they will have access to a personal account of yourexperienceKeep a journal for your childAsk your family members to write cards and letters to your childCreate an email account for your child and send messages to them, regardless ofwhether they are too young to read it or have no access to them. The emails will beavailable for your child when they are able to read themWrite a song or poem for your childCreate (or purchase) a keepsake letter book for your son or daughterAcknowledge important dates and birthdays by having a cake and taking a photo toshow your child what you did in the futureLearn to cook your child's favourite meal or sweets so you can surprise them next timeyou see themFind a new hobby or sport that you find productive and stress relievingStaying connectedBeing separated from your children can be one of the most difficult experiences a parent willever go through. Over many years of supporting parents in this situation, we havedeveloped a list of practical strategies other parents experiencing IPCA have found helpful. C O N N E C TP R A C T I C A L I D E A SP A G E 7
T O P 6 T I P S T O I M P R O V E V I D E OC O N T A C T W I T H K I D SUse a mobile deviceUsing a mobile device forvideo contact instead of aPC is helpful as childrencan pick up the device andmove around with it, whichincreases theirengagement.Establish boundariesKeep your interactions aboutyour child. Avoid adultconversations with the otherparent during contact. If adultconversations arise, suggestthese be discussed whenyour child is not present. Set time limitsIf there is more than onechild, a set amount of timewith each can help preventdisagreements between thechildren. You might want todo activities that everyonecan enjoy like reading astory book. ReassuranceIf your child asks questions you are unable to answer,remember not to makepromises you can't keep.Remind them that bothparents love them and willwork out the issue as bestthey can. Protect from conflictRemember to protect yourchild from conflict andarguments. Focus yourcommunication on yourchild and avoid askingquestions about the otherparent.P A G E 8C O N N E C TWatch your children playChildren have shortattention spans and mayfind it difficult to stayengaged for long periods oftime. Sometimes it is ok tojust watch your child play.
The Convention is an international treaty established tohelp parents when their children are being keptoverseas without their permission. The idea behind theConvention is that decisions about a child’s livingarrangements are best dealt with in the country of their“habitual residence”. The Convention was established tobe a prompt legal process in order to return a child totheir home country so there is the least disruptionpossible to their care and welfare. The Convention can also be used as a way of arrangingcontact with your child if your child lives overseas butyou are having difficulty maintaining contact with them. Importantly, the Convention relies on the cooperationand partnership between signatory countries. Thismeans that the Convention only operates betweencountries that have signed the Convention. In order tofully participate, countries also need to accept andrecognise each other as signatory countries. Hague ConventionParents often try to resolve parenting issues between themselves in the first instance. However,when this isn't possible, parents may choose to take legal action as the only remaining option.Finding the correct information about your parenting rights and responsibilities can be anoverwhelming and confusing process. It is always important to get proper legal information andadvice to be better equipped if you become involved in a international parenting dispute.It is also important to seek advice about your circumstances. Your options will be differentdepending upon which country your children are in and whether you are seeking their return toAustralia or contact with them while they live overseas.P A G E 9 C O N N E C TT H E 1 9 8 0 H A G U E C O N V E N T I O NThe first step with any concern about overseas parental abduction or disputes about contact with achild overseas is to see if the overseas country is a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on theCivil Aspects of International Child Abduction (‘the Convention’).ISS Australia's expert Legal service can provide assistance with all areas of the HagueConvention. To speak to someone, call ISS Australia on 1300 657 843.
The child must be under 16 years of ageYou must have a right of custody to the childThe removal or retention of your child overseas must be wrongful, that is, without your consentThe child must have been habitually resident in Australia at the time of the wrongful removalor retentionThis process involves preparing an application for your children’s return, the assessment of yourapplication by a government authority and court proceedings in the overseas court. It is important to speak with a lawyer about whether your case meets the eligibility criteria inmaking an application for return.Eligibility criteria:Habitual residence is a complex legal term and takes into account various factors depending onthe facts of the case, such as the parents' intention and your child’s connection to their homecountry or integration into the overseas country.In the event of International Parental Child Abduction, where the other parent refuses to return yourchildren to Australia from a Hague Signatory country, you might be able to seek their return toAustralia using the Convention. P A G E 1 0C O N N E C TA P P L I C A T I O N F O R R E T U R N
213648P A G E 1 1 C O N N E C TYou must complete your return application in the overseas court within 12 months from the date ofthe wrongful removal or retention. If you don’t, then it may be assumed that your children aresettled overseas and your application for their return is less likely to be successful.If you are able to establish a case for your children’s return to Australia, the other parent may beable to defend your application. The Convention sets out these defences. What defences will beraised depends on the facts of your situation. It is important to obtain legal advice about whatissues may impact your case. W H A T H A P P E N S N E X T ?Once the matter reaches theoverseas country, the time framesand procedures vary from country tocountry. At that stage, it is importantto remain in contact with the caseofficer from the Australian CentralAuthority of the Attorney General’sDepartment (‘ACA’) who is your pointcontact with regard to yourapplication.The ACA is the government authorityin Australia which deals with theConvention matters. They areresponsible for assessingapplications and submittingapplications to the Central Authorityin the other country. They canprovide general information aboutConvention matters and guide youthrough the process once yourapplication is submitted.Going through the applicationprocess can be stressful anddaunting, therefore it is important toget legal advice as early as possibleand reach out for support. Eventhough you are utilising the legalprocess, it doesn’t mean you stillshouldn’t take practical steps toremain connected with your child. Itcan also be difficult navigatingdiscussions about contact and socialwork support is available.
3648The child must be under 16 years of ageThe country the child lives in must be a HagueConvention countryYou must have ‘rights of access’ to the childunder Australian lawYour rights of access to the child must havebeen breachedIf your child lives overseas in a Hague signatorycountry and you are struggling to maintain contactwith them, you may be able to use the Conventionto improve your contact. If you are having difficultycommunicating with the other parent, you couldalso consider International Family Mediation.You can use the Convention to put forward aformal proposal to have contact with your child thatincludes things like phone calls, spending timewith your child in both the overseas country and inAustralia and being informed of matters about theirhealth and education. This process involves preparing a formalapplication with supporting material, assessmentof your application by the ACA and referral of yourapplication to the overseas country.Application for access criteria:In Australia, the parents of a child as listed on thechild’s birth certificate automatically have rights ofcustody and access to the child. This is unless acourt order has removed these rights.Each country deals with access applicationsdifferently. Some countries will refer accessapplications to court and others will refer accessapplications to mediation, an alternative disputeresolution process. It is important to obtain legaladvice and seek assistance from the ACA.21P A G E 1 2C O N N E C TA P P L I C A T I O NF O R A C C E S SF A M I L Y L A WW A T C H L I S TIf you think that your child maybe returned to Australia withoutyour knowledge or you becomeaware that your child has beenreturned to Australia, you shouldconsider making an urgentrequest for their name to beplaced on the Family LawWatchlist. The Family Law Watchlistmonitors the internationalmovement of children and if theirname is on the list they will notbe able to leave Australia.
Commonwealth legal financial assistance is available under the overseas child abductionscheme. This scheme is administered by the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department forparents affected by IPCA where legal proceedings have been or will be initiated overseas. Thisscheme can cover expenses such as overseas legal fees and travel expenses. This scheme ismeans tested and subject to certain eligibility criteria. This includes whether you have areasonable chance of being successful in the overseas court proceedings. If you areconsidering initiating legal proceedings overseas, we recommend you contact theCommonwealth Attorney-General's Department as early as possible, because retrospectiveexpenses are not generally covered by the scheme. DFAT offers limited consular assistance to parent's whose children are overseas. As previouslymentioned, DFAT can provide a list of overseas English speaking lawyers and may be able toprovide information about the country where your child is located. Please note the type ofassistance available can vary between countries. ISS Australia’s Social Work Service can alsoassist you to make inquiries with DFAT.The following assistance is available from the Australian Government when a child has beenwrongfully removed to a non-Hague Convention country:C O N N E C TP A G E 1 3Non Hague countriesIf your child has been wrongfully taken to a country that is not a signatory to the Hague Convention,your legal options are limited. It is important that you seek legal advice from a lawyer in theoverseas country to find out what course of action you may have. L E G A L A S S I S T A N C E Overseas lawyers can be found in several ways. For English speaking countries, you may wish tostart by searching online for the “Bar Association” or “Law Institute / Society” in the country you areseeking to locate a lawyer. In addition, the International Academy of Family Lawyers and ReuniteInternational Child Abduction Centre may be able help you find a lawyer in the country where yourchild is located.A list of overseas lawyers in non-English speaking countries can be requested from the AustralianDepartment of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). You can make this request directly to DFAT bycalling 1300 555 135 (option 4) or ask one of our social workers to make this request for you. If youare still unable to locate an overseas lawyer, our social workers may be able to ask our internationalnetwork partner for information and assistance. You can contact our social work service by calling1300 657 843 (option 1).S O C I A L W O R K A S S I S T A N C E ISS Australia is part of an international network with offices in over 140 different countries whosemain focus is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children. The ISS network coordinates to providecross border links to social services in different countries. Contact one of our experienced socialworkers today to discuss how our international network may assist in your situation.A S S I S T A N C E F R O M T H E G O V E R N M E N T
C O N N E C TP A G E 1 4What about the media?If you are approached by media personnel or are considering involving the media in your personalsituation, we strongly encourage you to obtain independent legal advice. It is important to be aware that Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 restricts the publication ofCourt proceedings. In general terms, this means that the publication of any information or materialthat may identify a child involved in the Family Law and Child Protection system is in breach of theAustralian Family Law Act and could result in a custodial sentence. Having clarity about the legalstatus of your situation is critical before communicating or engaging with reporters, editors and othermedia representatives. International parental child abduction is an intensely personal and traumatic event for parents,children and extended family members. The media industry is often driven by public curiosity andfascination with personal stories of tragedy and disaster. L E G A L C O N S I D E R A T I O N S P E R S O N A L C O N S I D E R A T I O N S In the event that you have legal authority to involve the media, minimising the possible adverseconsequences of added interest in your personal life can be challenging. The reporting can quicklybecome intrusive, leading to intense public scrutiny and other unanticipated outcomes such asmisrepresentation and online bullying. It is important to consider how to control your interactionswith the media, including the details, photographs and level of emotion you are willing to share,particularly in front of the camera. Many people who have experienced intense media coverageoften report feeling overwhelmed and that the way they were portrayed in the media, and thereforeperceived by the public, did not reflect who they are as a private person. Involving the media mayalso unwittingly expose extended family members, such as grandparents, to media attention. Overthe years, many families have found themselves dealing with the adverse impacts of losing theiranonymity and privacy due to the media’s commercialisation of their personal information.Overall, involving the media in your personal situation is a significant decision and how you chooseto navigate that process, either directly or through a third party, will impact your experience.This information has been informed by research undertaken by Dr Fiona Reynolds, author andproducer of the podcast series, ‘Accidental Celebrity’.
C O N N E C TP A G E 1 5Additional resourcesLearn To Video Call With Kids: A Guide to Skype and FaceTime to Video Call with Children What about me? Coping with the abduction of a brother or sister Purchase a keepsake letter book for your son or daughterIf you have a child support issue, you can contact the Overseas Cases Team at the AustralianChild Support Agency on +61 3 6216 0864 (Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 4:45 pm)Please note, the following resources are not affiliated with International Social Service Australia.For any questions or information regarding any of these resources, please reach out to thecorresponding providers. S U P P O R T I N G C H I L D R E NC O - P A R E N T I N GM E N T A L H E A L T H & C O M M U N I T Y OurFamilyWizardWeParent 2HousesDivvitoThere are a range of co-parenting apps availablewhich you may find useful to communicate withthe other parent. These include: See your GP for a referral to a Mental HealthTreatment plan where you can get Medicarerebates for individual psychologicalappointments with a mental healthprofessional. Help is available if you are worried about yourdrug or alcohol use. The National Alcohol andOther Drug Hotline 1800 250 015 is available24/7 To stay socially connected in your communityand find events that interest you visitmeetup.com To find a local Men’s Shed visit AustralianMen’s Shed AssociationTo join a local Men’s Table visit The Men’sTable If you want to talk to someone outside ofbusiness hours, call or visit MensLineTo access support if you are feeling suicidalcall or visit the Suicide Call Back Service
Lifeline - 13 11 14 MensLine Australia - 1300 789 978 Beyond Blue - 1300 224 636 Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467 Kids Helpline - 1800 551 800 QLife - 1800 184 527 - (3pm - 12am midnight AEST / 7 days)eheadspace - 1800 650 890 (9am - 1am AEST /7 days) Mental health support for youngpeople ages 12 to 25 years and their families. Mindspot - 1800 614 434 If you are having personal crisis If you are a man with emotional or relationship concerns If you are feeling anxious or depressed If you are thinking about suicide If you are a young person (5-25 years old)Mental health support for LGBTIQ+ people of all ages Online assessment and treatment for people with stress, worry, anxiety, or depression. ISS Australia provides a free social worksupport to parents and family membersaffected by International Parental ChildAbduction. Our social work service has beensupporting parents separated from theirchildren for over 15 years and understand theunique challenges involved in these complexsituations. C O N N E C TP A G E 1 6Where to get helpI N T E R N A T I O N A L F A M I L Y M E D I A T I O NI P C A S O C I A L W O R K S E R V I C EI P C A L E G A L S E R V I C EISS Australia’s Legal Service provides freeexpert legal assistance to parents whosechildren have been taken or kept overseaswithout consent, or who are seeking accessto children living overseas. We also assistparents with questions about preventing theremoval of their children from Australia.International Family Mediation (IFM) is a service offered by ISS Australia that provides expert,impartial assistance in the resolution of family separation disputes across international borders.Since the service began in 2012 it has assisted hundreds of families in over 30 countries. F O R O U T O F H O U R S S U P P O R Twww.iss.org.au1300 657 firstname.lastname@example.org