A 49 year old Brisbane woman has pleaded guilty to contempt of court for breaching orders regarding custody by hiding her children from their father for three years, and has been jailed for 18 months as a consequence.
The case was originally heard in the Family Court in 2014, where the court ordered the mother and father to share the care of the two children. However, breaching orders, the mother abducted the children and went on the run with them.
The mother was apparently facilitated by a “secret network of helpers” in her efforts to leave Brisbane with the kids, and to remain out of the reaches of authorities. Over the three years, the children were moved to a number of locations off grid, with the mother avoiding using phones or bank accounts to escape detection.
It wasn’t until the mother and the children moved into the maternal grandmother’s home north of Brisbane that the Australian Federal Police were able to locate them.
The grandmother, 74, had originally been ordered to provide any information about the location of her daughter and the grandchildren, but had harboured them for almost six months without informing authorities. Because the grandmother kept her daughter and grandchildren’s location secret, she was also charged with contempt of court, and given a six month jail term, suspended after three months. The mother however will have to serve the full 18 month term of her sentence.
The Federal Circuit Court Justice Michael Jarrett ruled the mother had shown “flagrant disregard” by breaching orders of the Family Court. While the mother had claimed the father had been violent towards both her and the children, even threatening her life, Justice Jarrett was “completely unsatisfied” that the mother had proven the allegations.
Instead, Justice Jarrett found it was the mother who had traumatised her children through the process of denying them access to their father and forcing them to endure three years living “on the run”.
The children were said to have been deprived of the chance of building a relationship with their father for the three years, but have since been returned to the father’s care.
While the mother wasn’t charged with criminal offences such as abduction, her offending in breaching orders was, in the eyes of the court, “significant”, though the mother “had shown no remorse for her actions”.
“[The mother’s] non-compliance with the orders have deprived these children the opportunity of developing their relationship with their other parent,” he said.”Even more significant is the trauma these children have been subjected to as a result of many shifts from residence to residence.”
Justice Jarrett said a fine was inappropriate given the “gravity of contempt”.
The women have said through their lawyer that they will not be appealing their sentences.
Read our blog: Is there any excuse for breaching parenting orders?
Do you need assistance with a parenting or other family law matter? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Legal Services on (02) 6223 2400.
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