The separation of parents can often be a difficult time, particularly when it involves one parent wishing to take a child overseas.

During the parental dispute, a risk may arise that one parent may take the child overseas without the other parent’s consent with the intention of not returning the child .

Fortunately, you can take steps to minimise the risk of a parent taking the child out of Australia without other parent’s consent.

Court Order

Generally, the first step to minimise the risk of child abduction is to make an application to the court.

The application would seek parenting orders that may order the child’s passport to be held in safekeeping with a third party (and not to be released without consent of the parties or a further court order). It may also order the child’s name to be placed on certain watch lists.

Once the order has been made, any breach of the order would be a contravention and penalties may apply. This provides some degree of security to a parent that their child will not be taken out of Australia.

An application to the court can also seek orders for the child’s name to be placed on watch lists where federal authorities can stop the child from leaving the country at border points.

Watch Lists

A court application can seek an airport watch list order where the child at risk of overseas abduction is placed on a watch list held by the Australian Federal Police. Once on this list, the child will be stopped when passing through customs before boarding a plane or ship.

If a child at risk of overseas abduction does not yet have a passport, they can also be placed on the Australian Passport Office’s child alert request.

Once on this list, the APO will not issue a passport to that child.

These watch lists are simple yet often effective steps that can be taken to minimise the risk of a child being abducted overseas once a court order has been made.

Child Alerts

Parents who are concerned about the abduction of their child from Australia can also apply to the Commonwealth Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for the child to be placed on the department’s warning list. Once on this list, the child will not be issued a passport or other travel documents.

This process is known as a “PACE” or child alert. A parent can raise a PACE or child alert if they suspect that the passport application will enable the child to be taken overseas without their consent.

Once the child alert has been validated, it will remain valid for 12 months.

Where a court order is made, the alert will remain in force until the child is 18 years, legally marries or a further order is made.

The Hague Convention

The above steps can be taken to prevent a child from leaving Australia.

However, it may be the case that the child has already been removed from the country. If this is the case, steps for the recovery of the child may be needed to ensure they return safely to Australia.

One such step may be taken pursuant to The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

If you require assistance with returning your child from overseas, we can help. Read a similar case study: Commonwealth Central Authority & Cavanaugh

If you have any questions about your family law issue, please contact our office for your free initial consultation with one of our family lawyers.