Separated Families – Can you Leave Australia with your Child?

The short answer is NO unless you have the consent of the other parent or an order from the Court allowing you to travel with your child outside of Australia. Under the Family law Act 1975, it is a Commonwealth Offence for a person to take or send a child from Australia contrary to an Order or where there are current court proceedings for a parenting order or where there is a current appeal against a parenting order.    

If a parent has concerns about their children being taken overseas without their consent an Application can be made under the Family Law Act 1975 seeking that their child is placed on the Family Law Watch List. This list is managed and enforced by the Australian Federal Police.  When a child is placed on the Family Law Watch List the Australian Federal Police will stop the person who is trying to take the child out of the country at the airport and prevent the child from leaving the country and they may notify the other parent.  A family law kit can be found under the Australian Federal Police website which gives some helpful information: https://www.afp.gov.au/what-we-do/crime-types/family-law-kit

In the event that a child has already been taken out of the country by a parent without the other parent’s permission, it is important to seek urgent legal advice as that parent may be able to bring an application under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction for the return of their child.  It is important to know that NOT all countries are signatories to the Hague Convention and a child has been abducted to one of these countries, you cannot seek a return to Australia under the Hague Convention. 

The Australian Central Authority is responsible for administering the Hague Convention in Australia, if a child is taken from Australia without consent, the Central Authority may be able to assist you. Check out the Australian Parental Abduction page for some helpful information: https://www.ag.gov.au/FamiliesAndMarriage/Families/InternationalFamilyLaw/Pages/InternationalParentalChildAbduction.aspx

Neisha Shepherd, Solicitor Director, NLS Law