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Tougher penalties for international parental child abductions

Media Release

The Morrison Government has toughened laws around international parental child abductions.

The legislation, which passed through Parliament today, fills a current gap in the law and will apply when a child, who is the subject of a court order or proceedings, is unlawfully retained overseas without parental consent or a court order.

The new offences will commence operation in the first quarter of 2019, and will be punishable by up to 3 years" imprisonment.

"These new offences complement the existing international parental child abduction offences which apply when a child is unlawfully taken overseas," the Attorney-General said.

"It will apply in circumstances where children are not returned as agreed or ordered, even though their departure from Australia may not have been illegal.

"Parental child abduction is traumatic for children and the parent who has lost access to their child or children.

"Criminalising the unauthorised retention of children overseas will provide a strong deterrent against this behaviour and provide a further tool for law enforcement to pursue and prosecute offenders."

A defence to the offences has also been introduced for circumstances where the removal or retention of a child overseas was to escape family violence.

The Attorney-General said the Government was committed to supporting separated and separating couples to determine the future parenting arrangements for their children and invests more than $160 million a year in services to help families affected by relationship breakdown.

"Families dealing with international parental child abduction describe the devastating impact of these disputes," the Attorney-General said.

"That is why, earlier this year the Government announced that it would provide a further $2.4 million over the next three years for dedicated legal, counselling and social support services for families impacted by parental child abduction. These services are available Australia-wide."

The changes are part of the Civil Law and Justice Legislation Amendment Act 2018 which amends 10 acts with minor and technical amendments and repeals redundant provisions in current laws.