Christmas Cheer Can Turn to Despair for Children of Separated Couples

The Christmas holiday season can often see an increase in disputes over children between separated couples and even cases of parental abduction, according to leading legal firm Creevey Russell Lawyers.

Creevey Russell family law specialist Jacinta Norris said the festive season can be an unfortunate time with a rise in parental abductions when one parent fails to return a child to the other parent in contravention of a court order or contrary to an informal agreement.

Ms Norris said often the police are unable to assist in this situation because the parent who has failed to return the child has not committed a crime.

“Even if there are formal court orders in place, contravening those orders does not constitute a crime,” Ms Norris said.

“Contravening an order is a serious matter, but prosecution lies in a private contravention application filed in the Federal Circuit Court or Family Court by the other parent, and that is not something your local police can assist with. The police can, however, perform a welfare check on the children. That will be particularly useful if you have concerns about the ability of the other parent to meet the children’s immediate needs, or if there are safety concerns due to drug or alcohol abuse, violence or mental health issues.”

Ms Norris said it is crucial for the welfare of their children that separating couples have proper plans in place for their care over the holidays.

“It is also important that any agreement you have about when the child is to be living with or spending time with each parent is in writing, as it will assist the court to understand when the children should have been returned,” she said.

“The only way to formalise legally binding parenting arrangements is through an application to the Family Law Courts, whether it be an application by agreement for the making of consent orders, or an application for the court to determine who the children will live with and how much time they will spend with the other parent. While an informal agreement is not binding, it is still useful to assist the court to understand what has been agreed between the parents.”

Ms Norris said there are a range of orders available to the court to assist with the return of the children, including directing police to locate the children and return them, orders requiring the other parent to return the children at a specified time, suspending the other parent’s time with the children, requiring the parents to participate in parenting courses, and various other measures depending on the circumstances.

Further inquiries:

Jacinta Norris (07) 3009 6555

About Creevey Russell Lawyers

Creevey Russell Lawyers is a full service law firm which operates primarily from our Brisbane practice, with the capacity to provide superior legal services to western Queensland through our Toowoomba practiceCreevey Russell Lawyers deliver results to a variety of clients including developers, corporations, accountants, liquidators and private clientele.