Australia’s multicultural diversity within an ever increasing global community means that it is not uncommon for one or more parents of a child to have connections to another country other than Australia. It can be necessary to involve the Australian Federal Police (AFP) within family law matters to protect and prohibit a child from travelling overseas.
Under sections 65Y and 65Z the Family Law Act (1975) (Cth), it is a Commonwealth offence for a person to take or send a child from Australia:
- Contrary to an order limiting or preventing the child’s overseas travel;
- Where court proceedings for a parenting order are pending; or
- Where an appeal against a parenting order is pending.
These offences are punishable by up to three years imprisonment. Additionally, taking or sending a child from Australia contrary to an order of the Court may result in contempt of Court.
One avenue available to parent’s who are concerned that the other party may take their child overseas is to register their child on the AFP Family Law Watchlist. This system is designed to alert police of the movement of children through identifying whether children are attempting to leave Australia. If your child is on the Family Law Watchlist, whether your child can travel or not will depend on what orders were made by the Court.
In order to place a child on the Family Law Watchlist, a Family Law Watchlist Request Form must be completed. In addition, the parent will need a Court order or have filed an application seeking an order limiting or preventing the child’s overseas travel and which also requests the AFP to place the child on the Family Law Watchlist. As soon as an Application is lodged the child’s name goes on by way of Application pending an Order as such being made. Even if the Order is not made at the first return date, the child’s name will remain on the Watchlist.
How a child is removed from the Family Law Watchlist will depend on how the child was first placed on the Watchlist. Generally, if the child is placed on the Family Law Watchlist by injunction, a further Court order removing the child from the Watchlist may be required. If the order requesting the AFP to place the child on the Family Law Watchlist is time-limited, then the child will be removed from the Family Law Watchlist on this date (subject to any subsequent orders).
A common issue that arises is where a child is eligible for dual passports and the parent is not aware of the additional passport number, if any. The Family Law Watchlist will still check the bona fides of the child and the travelling parent or guardian in the event that a passport was presented for the child with the same name and date of birth, but a different passport number. All possible enquires will be made by the AFP to ensure that a child is not removed from Australia if they are placed on the watchlist.
Nicholes Family Lawyers has extensive experience in International Family Law Matters. Please contact us if you have any further enquires.