Canberra Times

16 April, 2000

"Mother loses daughter, 6 to US father."
Canberra Times

The Australian mother of a six-year-old girl has been ordered to return her to the United States, more than five years after she walked out on her American husband and absconded with the child.

A ruling by the High Court last week supposedly bring to an end a legal battle that has been raging since the father obtained sole custody from a US court in May 1995.

After the mother returned to Australia unannounced four months earlier, the father invoked the international convention against child abduction to seek his daughter's return and to have the NSW Department of Community Services conduct the case on his behalf.

Since early 1996, the woman has been fighting the forced return of her daughter through the Family and High Courts. On three occasions, the case has gone to the Full Court of the Family Court.

After one such hearing, which went against the mother, she went into hiding for 14 months with her daughter and a second child, who was born in Australia after she had fled the US.

She was arrested in early 1998 and the girl was placed in foster care for a time. She was later returned to her mother.

The mother subsequently instituted further legal proceedings. These sought to have various Family Court regulations declared invalid, in part on the basis that an Australian citizen, as her daughter was, could not be forcibly removed from Australia for a non criminal reason.

After losing her case before a Full Family Court of five judges, she succeeded in getting the court to do something it almost never does, refer the whole matter directly to the High Court to consider the important legal and public interest issues involved.

But yesterday, in a 7-0 ruling, the High Court dismissed the woman's appeal. As justice Michael Kirby observed, the requirements of the convention and the law would now be fulfilled.

Article which appeared in the Canberra Times 16 4 2000.