There are laws about moving children, finding missing children, and recovering (returning) children from overseas. Some of these laws are complicated and you may need to take urgent action.
Australia has agreements with many other countries to prevent children being wrongfully removed from the country where they usually live.
If you want to take them overseas and the other parent disagrees, get legal advice.
If they have been taken overseas or you think they are about to be taken overseas without your consent, get urgent legal advice.
Taking children overseas
There are laws about taking children overseas. If you want to take your children overseas, you should try and reach an agreement with the other parent. A family dispute resolution service may be able to help.
If you cannot agree, you will have to apply to the Court for permission to take them overseas. The Court may allow them to travel if it believes it is in their best interests. It will consider the risk of the children not returning to Australia, and it may impose conditions, such as paying a security, to make sure they come back.
If there is a parenting Order in place, or an application for a parenting Order before a Court, it is an offence to move the children away from Australia without the written agreement of everyone covered by the current Order, or any further Court Orders. You may go to jail for this offence. There are rules about what kind of written agreements the Court will accept.
Australia has agreements with other countries to prevent people removing children from the country where they usually live. If you take them overseas without the other parent’s consent, you could be ordered to return them under one of these agreements.
There are things you can do to prevent your children from being taken overseas. If you think they are going to be taken without your consent, get urgent legal advice.
If the children do not already have passports, you may need the other parent to sign the application—it must be signed by both parents. If you do not want the other parent to take the children overseas, you can refuse to sign the passport application.
If the other parent will not sign the application and you think they are being unreasonable, you can apply to the Court for the passport to be issued without their consent.
If you think there might be a passport application without your agreement, you can ask the Passports Office to put the children’s names on a child alert list—valid for up to 12 months. This does not need to be done by the Court—you can do this.
If the children’s names are on the ‘child alert’ list, the Passport Office will contact you to discuss the application if the other parent makes an application without your agreement. An alert means there will be special scrutiny of the application. It does not guarantee an Australian passport will not be issued and it will not prevent a foreign passport being issued if the children are eligible.
Your children may be eligible for a passport from another country (eg if they have dual citizenship or nationality), but these countries may have different requirements for issuing passports. You should contact the relevant embassy if you are concerned about your children travelling on a passport from another country.
Preventing children being taken overseas
If you think your children are at risk of being moved overseas, contact the Australian Federal Police and the family Law Courts, and get urgent legal advice. If there is an emergency situation you can access Court services and the police quickly.
Call 02 6126 7777 for the Family Law Watchlist or recovery and arrest warrants.
If you think your children have been taken overseas without your consent:
- report it to your local police
- get legal advice—for example—you will need to apply for a Court Order to place your child on the Family Law Watchlist. If your child has not left Australia, it may be possible to stop them being taken. The Australian Federal Police may be able to help.
If the children already have passports, you can apply to the Court for an urgent injunction (restraining Order) to prevent the other parent (or other person) taking them overseas. You can also apply for their passports to be handed in to the Court.
Returning children who have been taken overseas without consent
If your children have already been taken overseas without your consent contact International Social Service Australia for urgent legal advice. Call 1300 657 843
This service gives free legal advice and support to families affected by international child abduction including:
- help preparing applications for a child’s return under the Hague Convention (which is the main international agreement covering international parental child abduction)
mediation and negotiation services for children taken to other countries outside of the Hague convention
Disclaimer: The material presented on this website is an information source only. The information on this website is written for people resident in, or affected by the laws of Queensland, Australia only. Links to other sites from this website are provided for the users’ convenience. The LGBTI Legal Service does not endorse these sites and is not responsible for the information on these sites or the use made of this information. If you have a specific legal problem, you should consult a professional legal advisor.