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Home | Blog | Family Court: can parenting orders follow you around the world?

Today, it is not uncommon for post-separation mum or dad to find themselves contemplating an international relocation- particularly when a tempting job offer is involved and the promise of a whole new life is so enticing. However, making the move without the children may be unthinkable to one parent, whilst the other parent is faced with the unenviable prospect of having their children relocated to a foreign country.

Parenting orders overseas

In determining parenting matters, the domestic Family Law Courts have the power to decide whether a parent may relocate with the children, and on what terms this is allowed to occur. However, in international relocation cases the potency of the domestic orders of a particular country is hugely affected by their international enforceability.

In an increasingly globalised environment legal systems across the world need to develop a system of translation and compatibility, or risk losing their efficacy as soon as one of the parties leaves the country.

In July of this year, in the case of Merrick v Wellington [2014] FamCA 514 the Family Court of Australia registered a UK parenting order under the Child Protection Convention. The parties had earlier obtained parenting orders from the UK Family Court permitting the mother’s relocation to Perth, Western Australia with the only child of the marriage, conditional on the Family Court of Australia granting mirror orders.

The Family Court made Parenting orders pursuant to Part VII of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (“the Act”). Section 69E of the Act provides that proceedings may be instituted under that Act only if, the child or a parent of the child or a party to the proceedings is present in Australia, a citizen of Australia, ordinarily resident in Australia or “it would be in accordance with a treaty or arrangement between Australia and an overseas jurisdiction, or the common law rules of private international law, for the court to exercise jurisdiction in the proceedings.

In this case the application was in accordance with a private international law treaty, namely, the Child Protection Convention[1]. The 1996 Convention is currently in force between Australia and 38 signatory states.

Just like in regular parenting proceedings, the Court must make a parenting order that it thinks is in the best interests of the child. In this case, the Court was satisfied that the orders sought were proper and that the making of the orders were in the best interests of the child.

[1] Full name is the Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition and Co-operation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children signed at The Hague on 19 October 1996

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