Lessons from Lebanon
As at 15 April 2016, Australian mother, Sally Faulkner, was arrested and is currently being held in detention in Lebanon for abduction charges. The people that she ‘abducted’ are her children, aged 4 and 6, who were in Lebanon with their father.
The mother had obtained parenting orders from the Family Court in Australia regarding care of the children and orders appointing Australian police or agents to get her children back from Lebanon. She did not however register these orders in Lebanon. The father had obtained orders from the religious court in Lebanon granting him custody of the children.
In relation to the criminal charges the mother faces, she has agreed not to pursue her orders for care / custody of the children if the father drops the criminal charges against her. She hopes to be able to see her children, when she wants, in Australia, Lebanon or another country.
Time will tell how this unfolds, what criminal charges (and possible sanctions) the mother faces, where the children will live, what time they will spend with each parent and, perhaps most importantly, the effect these chain of events will have on these young children.
What can parties involved in family law parenting matters learn from this story?
- The importance of having formal parenting orders in place to avoid uncertainty and lack of enforceability of care arrangements for children.
- The need for parties to understand the relevant laws of the country to which they and their children might be travelling, visiting or spending time.
- Obtaining legal advice on steps they may need to take to for orders they have obtained in an Australian courts to, where possible, be made enforceable in foreign countries.
NOTE: Since 15 April 2016 it was reported that the father would not be dropping charges against the mother, and that he opposed bail for those in custody (being the mother and 60 Minutes crew). The mother claimed that the father did not return the children as agreed after taking them to Lebanon last year.
The headlines on 21 April 2016 suggest that the 60 Minutes crew and the mother are on their way back to Australia as the father dropped the charges, but this is not the end of the story as criminal charges may still be filed. The mother has agreed to the father’s terms of obtaining a divorce and him retaining custody of the children in Lebanon, with her to visit the children there or another country (but not Australia). As time goes on it will be interesting to see if that situation accords with the Australian Family Law Act which provides (unless there are certain exceptions) that one of the most important considerations is the children having a meaningful relationship with both parents.
At McLaughlins Lawyers, we have an experienced team of family lawyers who can advise you on an extensive range of family law matters. McLaughlins is the Gold Coast’s oldest law firm with professional and approachable lawyers providing the highest standard of innovative legal services. Our promise to you is to be honest and trustworthy, reliable, professional, approachable, and supportive and to provide value for money.
For more advice on family law matters, we invite you to contact McLaughlins Lawyers today on (07) 5591 5099.
Author: Joelene Nel
Partner: Sophie Pearson