CAN PARENTAL ABDUCTIONS BE AVOIDED?
As international marriages become more and more common these days, the problem of international parental child abduction has also begun to rise. International parental child abduction generally refers to the wrongful removal of a child by the parent to another country, or retaining the child in a foreign country away from the other parent. The parent takes such drastic measures for fear of losing the opportunity to see the child in the future.
In Malaysia, it is an offence for a parent to take the child out of the country without the consent from the other parent, or permission from the Court. As such, it is always advisable for parents intending to take their child out of jurisdiction to seek consent from the other parent and if that consent cannot be obtained, to apply to the Court for permission to do so.
Provisions under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (“LRA”)
Under Section 101 of the LRA, the Court is empowered to give leave/permission for a child to be taken out of Malaysia, either unconditionally or subject to such conditions or undertakings as the Court deems fit. An illustration of this can be seen in the case of Low Swee Siong v Tan Siew Siew  9 CLJ 536 where the High Court allowed the wife’s application to take the child out of jurisdiction with the condition that the wife is under a duty to bring the child back from the UK to Malaysia every year during the child’s school holiday for a period of 1 week. The High Court had also made provisions for the husband to be granted access to the child.
Conversely, a parent may also make an application under Section 101 of LRA to obtain an injunction restraining the other parent from taking the child out of Malaysia.
Section 101 of the LRA only applies where there is a pending matrimonial proceeding or where there is any agreement or order of Court where one parent has custody of the child to the exclusion of the other. Pursuant to Section 101(3) of the LRA, failure to comply with the Court order shall be punishable as an act of contempt of Court. In the case of Low Swee Siong, the High Court held that the husband was in contempt of Court when he refused to hand over the child and the child’s passport to the wife.
In the case of Teh Eng Kim v. Yew Peng Siong  1 LNS 138, the issue was, inter alia, whether upon divorce, the wife could take her children to Australia as she intended to marry an Australian national. The Federal Court, in applying English principles, stated that when considering the custody of children, the paramount consideration is the welfare of the children. Parental rights are overridden if they are in conflict with the welfare of the children. In Teh Eng Kim, the Court concluded that the children’s future and welfare were better served by going with the mother to reside in Australia in which the children had a strong attachment to as opposed to remaining in Malaysia to live with their stepmother.
In the case of Low Swee Siong, the Court granted the wife’s application to take the child out of Malaysia to the United Kingdom after considering that her application was genuine and not motivated by some selfish desire to exclude the husband from the child’s life. Further, her application was realistic in which she had set up specific plans for the child’s education.
It can be seen from case law that the consideration of the welfare of the children remains the utmost priority of the Courts, and this is so even if there is a foreign Court custody order in existence. In the case of Mahabir Prasad v Mahabir Prasad  2 MLJ 326, the Federal Court held that the Malaysian Courts are not bound to give effect to the foreign custody order if it would not be for the child’s benefit. As such, a custody order obtained previously in a foreign Court would not bar the Malaysian Courts from hearing the matter nor are the Malaysian Courts estopped from making any further orders on custody.
Further, any injunction against or leave to take a child out of jurisdiction should not interfere with the lifestyle of the new family unit which has been granted custody. In Teh Eng Kim, the Court held that where one parent has been given custody, it would be wrong for an order to be made which will interfere with the lifestyle of the new family unit that is working well.
In cases involving children of foreign nationality, the approach of the Courts has been to return the children to their settled home unless there is some prima facie evidence that the child would be harmed. In the case of Neduncheliyan Balasubramaniam v Kohila A/P Shanmugam  3 MLJ 768, the Court of Appeal held that there is a difference between the duration of the protection a court can accord to children who are Malaysian citizens and to those children who are only visitors to this country because they are children of foreign nationals. Despite the Malaysian Courts putting the welfare of the children being the utmost importance, the duration of the protection afforded for children of foreign nationality, sadly, could only be for as long as the children are allowed to lawfully remain in the country, and the Court only intervenes if the harm to the children from anyone including their parents can be classified as a real and immediate danger to their physical well-being.
The Hague Convention
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 (“Hague Convention”), provides a cross-border mechanism to ensure that children who have been abducted by one parent and taken to another country are promptly returned to their country of habitual residence where the courts of the country of habitual residence will determine the merits of the custodial dispute.
Unfortunately, Malaysia is not a party to the Hague Convention. As a result, there is a general reluctance by foreign parents in Hague member countries in allowing holiday access to the Malaysian parent due to their fear that they will have no avenue to extradite the child in Malaysia, in the event that the other parent refuses to return the child. Consequently, the Malaysian parent is almost always at a disadvantage in a cross-border custody battle.
Given that the Hague Convention has now been signed by more than 100 countries, there should no longer be any hesitation on Malaysia’s accession to the Hague Convention. As the effects of parental child abduction could be severe on the children abducted, it is time for Malaysia to reconsider and revisit the issue of being a signatory to the Hague Convention in order to provide a formal mechanism in facilitating the automatic return of children abducted to and from Malaysia.
By: Jaclyn Chang
DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information only and should not be relied upon as legal advice and/or legal opinion. Messrs Yeoh & Joanne accepts no liability for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in this article.
根据《1976年法律改革(婚姻和离婚)法》第101条，法院有权无条件或根据法院认为适当的条件或承诺，准许/允许儿童离开马来西亚。在Low Swee Siong v Tan Siew Siew  9 CLJ 536 一案中可以看到这方面的一个例子，在该案中，高等法院允许妻子申请将孩子带离司法管辖区，条件是妻子有义务每年在孩子为期一周的学校假期期间将孩子从英国带回马来西亚。高等法院还规定允许丈夫探视孩子。
《1976年法律改革(婚姻和离婚)法》第101条仅适用于正在进行的婚姻诉讼，或者有任何协议或法院命令关于其中父母一方对子女拥有监护权，而另一方除外。根据《1976年法律改革(婚姻和离婚)法》第101(3)条，不遵守法院命令将作为藐视法庭行为而受到惩罚。在Low Swee Siong一案中，高等法院认为，丈夫拒绝将孩子和孩子的护照交给妻子是对法院的蔑视。
在Teh Eng Kim v. Yew Peng Siong  1 LNS 138一案中，问题是，除其他外，离婚后，妻子是否可以带子女去澳大利亚，因为她打算与澳大利亚国民结婚。联邦法院在适用英国原则时指出，在考虑儿童监护权时，首要考虑的是儿童的福利。如果父母的权利与孩子的福利相冲突，父母的权利将被取消。在Teh Eng Kim一案中，法院得出结论认为，与母亲一起去澳大利亚居住更有利于儿童的未来和福利，因为孩子们对澳大利亚有着强烈的依恋，而不是留在马来西亚与继母一起生活。
在Low Swee Siong案中，法院批准了妻子将孩子从马来西亚带到联合王国的申请，因为法院认为她的申请是真实的，并非出于将丈夫排除在孩子生活之外的某种自私愿望。此外，她的申请是现实的，她为孩子的教育制定了具体的计划。
从判例法中可以看出，儿童的福利仍然是法院的最优先考虑的事项，即使存在外国法院的监护令，情况也是如此。在Mahabir Prasad v Mahabir Prasad  2 MLJ 326一案中，联邦法院认为，如果外国监护令不是为了儿童的利益，马来西亚法院没有义务执行该命令。因此，先前在外国法院获得的监护令不会阻止马来西亚法院审理此事，马来西亚法院也不会被禁止发布任何进一步的监护令。
此外，任何禁制令或将儿童带离司法管辖区的任何准许都不应干扰已获得监护权的新家庭单位的生活方式。在Teh Eng Kim案中，法院认为，如果父母一方被给予监护权，那么下达一项会干扰新家庭生活方式的法庭令将是错误的。
在涉及外国国籍儿童的案件中，法院的做法是将儿童送回其定居的家，除非有一些初步证据表明儿童会受到伤害。在Neduncheliyan Balasubramaniam v Kohila A/P Shanmugam  3 MLJ 768一案中，上诉法院认为，法院对马来西亚公民的子女和那些外国国民的子女给予保护的期限有所不同。尽管马来西亚法院将儿童的福利放在最重要的位置，但令人遗憾的是，为外国国籍的儿童提供保护的期限只能是限于这些儿童合法留在该国的期间，而且只有当包括其父母在内的任何人对儿童的伤害可以被归类为对其身体健康的真正和直接的危险时，法院才会进行干预。
文章来自于：张美琪律师 (Jaclyn Chang Mei Qi)
文章翻译：李淑婷律师 (Lee Su Ting)
免责声明:本文仅供参考，不应作为法律建议和/或法律意见。Yeoh & Joanne律师事务所不会承担因依赖本文所含信息而产生的任何损失的责任。