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‘Kids without voices’ application heard in Australia

Children in Hague Convention case seek right to independent legal representation

The full bench of the High Court in Australia has been hearing an application by four sisters who are the subjects of a child abduction dispute between their parents.

The mother, an Australian who had been living with the girls' father in Italy, brought the sisters back to Australia, claiming that the father gave his consent for her to permanently re-locate to Australia with the girls and that he changed his mind only subsequently.

The father claims that he gave permission only for the girls to go on a month long holiday with their mother and was expecting them to return.  When they did not, he started proceedings which came before the Family Court of Australia in May 2011, reported as Department of Communities (Child Safety Services) & Garning [2011] FamCA 485.  The judge found that the mother had wrongfully removed the children from their place of habitual residence, without the consent of the father, and ordered that they be returned to Italy.The girls made headlines when they went into hiding with a member of their mother's Australian based family to avoid being returned to Italy, the country of their birth, for a custody hearing in May.

They are now seeking to establish a right for children to be separately legally represented in Hague Convention proceedings.

To read a report in The Brisbane Times, including the views of Australian legal authorities, please click here. To read an article about the case and its possible implications, written by Emma Nash for Family Law Week in June 2012, please click here.