How to stop a child from leaving Australia
Separation is an incredibly difficult time for any couple, but it can be especially difficult if you and your partner have children together.
If you’ve been through a divorce or separation and you’re concerned that your partner is going to take your child abroad without your permission, then there are several steps you can take to prevent a child from leaving Australia. Namely, you can apply to have your child placed on the Family Law Watchlist (previously known as the Airport Watchlist). This will then prevent them leaving the country without your permission or a Court Order to do so, either for a holiday or permanently.
What is the Family Law Watchlist?
The Family Law Watchlist is maintained by the Australian Federal Police . Those children that are placed on the Family Law Watchlist are prevented from leaving the country without the consent of the other parent or an Order of the Court.
When a child’s name is placed on the Family Law Watchlist, it is registered with the Australian Federal Police at all international departure points.
The child alert request system is designed to alert the police to the movement of children. If a departing parent attempts to take a child who is on the Family Law Watchlist out of the country, the child will be stopped at the airport and they will not be allowed to leave Australia.
If you think that your child may be taken from the country without your consent, then it’s vital that you add their name to the Family Law Watchlist as soon as possible. This is because, if you haven’t submitted a child alert request by the time they reach the airport, they will be allowed to leave Australia.
A child may appear on the Family Law Watchlist if:
- The child is the subject of a parenting order application currently before the court that seeks to limit or prevent their ability to travel overseas;
- The court has issued a parenting order that limits or prevents a child from travelling overseas;
- The court has issued an injunction that limits or prevents a child’s overseas travel;
- The child is the subject of an application for an order to place the child on the Family Law Watchlist; or
- The child is the subject of a parenting order or an injunction that’s under appeal.
How do I place my child on the Family Law Watchlist?
If you need to place your child on the Family Law Watchlist, there are a number of steps you will need to take:
- You will need to file an application for a court order or a parenting order that limits or prevents the child’s overseas travel, and which also requests the AFP to place the child on the Family Law Watchlist OR have filed an appeal with the court against an order of the court relating to the child that limits or prevents the child’s overseas travel. This order must have requested the AFP to place the child on the Family Law Watchlist.
- You will need to be able to provide the Australian Federal Police with a copy of the Court Order you have obtained that limits or prevents the child’s overseas travel; AND
- You will need to fill in the Family Law Watchlist Request Form and send it in to the Australian Federal Police;
Your application must be emailed or faxed to the Australian Federal Police by you (the court will not do this for you) along with the Family Law Watchlist Request Form. You will also need to provide a phone number and an email address where you’re contactable 24 hours a day.
Regardless of the specific orders you’re seeking, once you file your application with the court, the Family Law Act prohibits all parties (including yourself) from taking the child out of Australia.
What happens when my child is on the Family Law Watchlist?
If your child is on the Family Law Watchlist, then you will have a number of obligations. For example, it is your responsibility to:
- Provide the Australian Federal Police with a 24-hour contact number;
- Give the Australian Federal Police your child’s passport details and any possible aliases;
- Notify the Australian Federal Police if any of your details or personal circumstances change. This includes any new orders that may affect your child’s status on the Family Law Watchlist; and
- Inform the Australian Federal Police at least 10 working days before your departure any time you intend to travel
Can I get my child removed from the Family Law Watchlist?
How a child is removed (or whether it’s possible to remove a child from the list) will depend on how the child was placed on the list.
If the court ordered your child to be placed on the Family Law Watchlist, then the order may be time-limited. If so, your child will be removed from the list on this date if no subsequent orders are made.
If not, you may require a further court order to remove the child from the watchlist.
Need more advice on how to stop a child leaving Australia? Get in touch
If you’re concerned that your ex-partner may try to take your child abroad in an attempt to reside overseas with them or alternatively, if you need to take steps to remove your child from the Family Law Watchilst to allow you to travel overseas, please get in touch with us as soon as possible. Our expert team can move quickly to keep your child in the country and/or advise you of the evidence you will need to put forward to the Court in responding to an Application for a child to be placed on the Family Law Watchlist.
We take into account the constantly changing business and personal circumstances of our clients.