The heated custody dispute over New Zealand six-year-old Que Langdon has made its way to a Melbourne court with her father Alan commencing a recovery motion for his daughter's custody.
Mr Langdon travelled to Melbourne overnight and is now pursuing Federal Court intervention for the return of his daughter Que Langdon from her mother, Ariane Wyler.
“I’m at the court now,” he told the Milton Ulladulla Times on Monday.
“I’m trying to get Que safe, I think she is in danger of being removed from the country.
“I haven’t heard from them at all. Just silence and I’m very concerned.
“I’ve filled out forms and I’m sitting, waiting. Some people have been waiting for hours.”
Child recovery agent Col Chapman helped reunite the New Zealand girl with her mother in Ulladulla on Sunday.
Que is at the centre of an ugly custody battle that made international news when Mr Langdon and Que disappeared from Kawhia Harbour in Waikato, on New Zealand’s north island, on December 17.
The pair were discovered in Ulladulla last Wednesday.
Ms Wyler and Mr Langdon were due to appear in Family Court proceedings in Auckland in March this year, however when the Mr Langdon and his daughter vanished Ms Wyler hired Mr Chapman to investigate.
Mr Chapman said New Zealand courts had seized Que’s passport to prevent her from travelling internationally before her parents’ scheduled court appearance.
The mother and daughter are currently staying in Melbourne while Ms Wyler attempts to have Que’s passport released from the New Zealand court system.
“Ariane's lawyers are going to try and apply to have Que’s passport released,” Mr Chapman said.
“We are going to try and do it without the Hague Convention because that can take months or even years.
“We are worried if we use it Australia might become the habitual residence.”
Family Law expert and former president of the Law Society of New South Wales, Justin Dowd said the Hague Convention is an international treaty governing the return of a child who has been abducted by a parent or guardian.
Mr Dowd said the most likely course of action will see Que returned to New Zealand to await scheduled family court proceedings.
"If Alan came here by mistake then we imagine he must want to come back to New Zealand."
“The convention effectively says disputes should take place in the country of the habitual residency of the child,” he said.
“Both Australia and New Zealand are signatories, so they both adhere to it.
“They (the Langdons) are habitually residents in New Zealand and the court proceedings should take place there.”
The Australian Attorney General’s Office confirmed parents can also pursue domestic legal options in either country as an alternative to the Hague Convention process.
“For the purposes of the Hague Abduction Convention… a current domestic court proceeding or court order does not need to be in place in the requesting country for a parent to apply under the Convention for their child’s return,” they said in a statement to the Milton Ulladulla Times.
New Zealand police confirmed on Sunday they had laid charges against Mr Langdon.
“A 49-year-old man is due in Te Awamutu District Court on January 25, charged with taking a child from New Zealand,” Detective Sergeant Bill Crowe said.
However, Ms Wyler, speaking through Mr Chapman, said she was prepared to drop the charges against Mr Langdon if he returns to New Zealand and the existing court case.
“The charges have gotta (sic) absolutely be dropped when Alan returns to New Zealand, of his own accord,” Mr Chapman said.
“We are trying to say New Zealand has carriage of this case and a trial date is set there, so give us her passport so we can return there.
“Ariane wants 50/50 care of Que, in New Zealand. She recognises Alan is essential and they need to get along.
“If Alan came here by mistake then we imagine he must want to come back to New Zealand.”
New Zealand Police said there are no extradition proceedings active for Mr Langdon.
Australian Federal Police has confirmed they will assist New Zealand authorities as, and when, required.
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