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Withholding children from the other parent in Australia

Submitted by Jamesnoble on Tue, 12/07/2021 - 20:37

Following a family breakdown, emotions are high and stress levels can be extreme. In these circumstances, separated parents don’t always make the best decisions as they navigate this new unknown territory. Unfortunately, the children can sometimes get caught up in this parental conflict, which can be to their detriment.

A parent may knowingly or unknowingly take out their anger, frustration, and resentment on the other parent by unilaterally withholding the children and failing to facilitate the relationship between the children and the other parent. In the Australian media, this is typically portrayed as Mothers withholding children from Fathers.

You might recall the 2012 case of the 4 sisters aged between 9 and 15 years who were caught up in a serious international custody dispute between their parents in the Family Court of Australia at Brisbane. This case involved an Italian Father and an Australian Mother who refused to make the children available to see and spend time with their Father.

The Mother fled Europe illegally with the children after convincing authorities that the Father had abused the family, which was later found to be untrue. While this case involves the added complexity of international jurisdictions, considerable evidence, and long, complicated proceedings, the Court ultimately ordered the return of the 4 sisters to their Father in Italy with the Mother effectively losing parental responsibility for the children.

It is very serious to withhold children from a parent and there must be strong independent documentary evidence to back up a parent’s claim if they are alleging the children are at risk with the other parent. It is recommended that a parent seek independent legal advice before they withhold a child because if this is done in circumstances where it was not necessary or held to be contrary to the children’s best interests, there can be serious consequences including having the child removed from the withholding parent’s care.

Co parenting AustraliaIt’s important to therefore try and keep ‘adult issues’ separate to your co-parenting relationship with your former partner. Effective communication and focus on the children’s best interests must remain the priority.

Studies have shown that high levels of parental conflict which result in unreasonably withholding the children from a parent can cause the children significant emotional harm later in their lives.

If you are experiencing difficulty co-parenting with your former partner, you might like to suggest both parties attend a post-separation parenting program to educate parents on these issues or perhaps propose family counseling with an experienced psychologist or social worker.

If your children have been withheld from seeing or spending time with you by the other parent, it is critical that you seek independent legal advice from Brisbane family lawyers as soon as possible.

Time is of the essence.

Depending on the circumstances, you may have grounds to make an urgent application to the Court seeking your time with the children to be reinstated urgently and to obtain legally enforceable Court Orders. Some important considerations for the Court in these circumstances are:

Whether the children are at risk of child abuse, neglect or family violence;
Whether the children are safe; and
Whether the other parent has mental health, anger, drug or alcohol issues.
For more information or If you need any help please contact the Brisbane Family Lawyers team today for a FREE, no-obligation 20-minute consultation.

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