Amelia, Anne & Emmi*

Amelia felt so unsafe. Her now ex-husband's abuse was getting worse. On one occasion she went to the police with bruises all over her arms. While she spoke to the officer about the abuse, she did not press charges, as she didn’t want her daughters to have the stigma attached to having a father who was in jail. This is her Hague Story. 

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Australia's daughters exiled by Australian Judge

Amelia’s daughters, Anne and Emmi, were born in Australia. Like many first time mothers, Amelia attended a mothers group and playgroup and started to build friendships with other mothers that she still treasures to this day. Australia was their home. Amelia and her husband (both Australians citizens) were beginning to struggle in their relationship, but Amelia was committed to try and work on it. He convinced her to travel to Asia with him on a short term work assignment. She paused her studies to go with him in the hope of improving their relationship.

Her Hague Story notes that there is no protective legislation within the Hague Convention, to consider short term work assignments in a foreign country a reason to refuse a ‘return’.

 

Their relationship did not improve.

Due to VISA restrictions, she was unable to work in the foreign country and became completely reliant upon him for finances. He started controlling all the money and limiting her access. He became abusive in other ways too. Amelia and the children were not happy or safe and needed to return to Australia as planned. Her studies, friends and family, as well as the support and independence that she needed, waited for her at home in Australia.

This was when Amelia first heard about the Hague Convention. Her ex told her that if she returned home to Australia, he would charge her with kidnapping Anne and Emmi.

Under the Hague Convention, mothers can be charged with kidnapping their own children whom they have carried, birthed, and cared for every single day.

Amelia called the Australian Consulate to ask about the Hague Convention and for their help to get home. They told her that she needed his permission to fly home to Australia with her daughters. They also told her that they do not get involved in marital matters.

She later found out that they should have told her that the country that she was in was not a signatory to the Hague Convention, and she could have simply returned home to Australia. But, they failed her. Because of this failure, the father was able to convince her that she would be charged with kidnapping if she left.

Her Hague Story notes that an abuser was again empowered by The Hague Convention.

Amelia and her daughters were stuck and isolated. She believed that they could not get home. Moreover, she could not report the abuse in the country she was in. Amelia recalls that a woman in the country they were staying in had been recently bashed by the police for reporting a rape. There was no authority that she could report his abuse to or lean upon for support.

The father then told the mother that his job was cut short in Asia, but instead of returning to Australia he accepted another short term contract in America. Amelia did not want to go to America and again told him that she wanted to return home to Australia. She went under duress to America to be with her daughters.

The abusive father weaponised The Hague Convention to disempower and control his victims.

After arriving in America, Amelia found out that her husband was planning to divorce her. She discovered that he was planning to use the Hague Convention to alienate her from her daughters. He knew that once he divorced her while in America, she would not be able to renew her temporary VISA and would need to leave the country.

Amelia felt so unsafe and threatened by the father. His abuse was getting worse. On one occasion she went to the police with bruises all over her arms. While she spoke to the officer about the abuse, she did not press charges, as she didn’t want her daughters to have the stigma attached to having a father who was in jail.

After just over a year in America, Amelia decided to return to safety in Australia. In America she had no financial means, she did not have a legal work permit, and she could not get legal support. Moreover, he was repeatedly threatening divorce, and he was becoming increasingly abusive - towards Amelia and the girls.

So, she returned home to Australia with her daughters. They returned to the only country the whole family has citizenship in and the country that they had decided to raise and educate their children in. Their oldest daughter was ready to start school and they had previously agreed that they would absolutely be back for the girls to start school in Australia.

 

However, the father refused mediation and followed through on his threat, of immediately starting 

Hague Convention proceedings against the mother.

Her Hague Story suggests that a condition, prior to the commencement of Hague Convention proceedings, be that both parties attend mediation.

Amelia still cannot believe that she was prosecuted and labeled as an abductor of her own girls when bringing them home.

The father lied during Hague proceedings and said that America was always meant to be their home. The judge eventually laughed and said to the mother; “He really has you strapped over a barrel”, and then ordered her Australian born daughters, of whom she had been the primary carer of their whole lives, to the foreign country where their abuser awaited.

While the girls are citizens of Australia, they were ‘returned’ to America where they only had temporary work assignment VISA’s. This alone should have determined that their residency was Australia.

The mother and her legal support wrote to the Attorney General about Amelia’s situation, and outlined how The Hague Convention is a violation of basic human rights. They received a stock standard response.

The Attorney General, while responsible for Hague Cases, does not take responsibility.
 

Desperate to be with her daughters, she accompanied them to America. However, in America Amelia had no financial means, nor could she work or receive support from legal aid. She had no family or support - their family and support are in Australia. Amelia and her daughters were forced into poverty by the courts of Australia.

The father never paid child support prior to or during Hague Convention proceedings.

Her Hague Story suggests that for fathers to be able to lodge

Hague Convention proceedings, they need to be able to show that they have been financially supporting their child.

An award awaited the father for forcing his ex-wife and daughters to live in poverty. The courts of America look at who can financially provide for the children, and as a consequence, awarded him full custody. In Australia, as an Australian citizen, Amelia has a right to work and could have provided for her daughters. In America, without a VISA and work permit, she couldn’t!

Amelia was forced to return home to Australia without her daughters.

The father succeeded with his parental alienation plan.

And what a weapon to wield! The Hague Convention.

In America, Amelia is seen as a child abductor and could be considered a criminal. It is possible that she will end up in prison if she returns to visit her daughters who, because of The Hague Convention, are held captive by their abuser.

Amelia, Anne & Emmi #HerHagueStory
*To protect the privacy of individuals, names have been changed.