There are two ways that you can try to prevent a child from being taken from Australia without your consent. Firstly, you can file a Child Alert request form with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
This will stop the issue or renewal of a child’s passport or other travel documents. Secondly, you can have the child placed on the Australian Federal Police (AFP) Family Law Watchlist. If you think that your child might be taken out of Australia, you should seek legal advice immediate.
A Child Alert Request is a warning to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that there are circumstances that need to be looked into before they issue an Australian passport or other travel document to a child. A request can be made by a parent of or a person with a parental responsibility for the child. Once registered, it remains valid for up to 12 months. You do not need a court order that prevents the child travelling for a Child Alert Request to be recorded but you must have legal responsibility for the child. If there is a court order regarding overseas travel, the request will stay in force until the child turns 18, gets married, or for the time that the court has ordered.
It is only valid in respect of an Australian passport or travel document – the Department can’t influence the issue of travel documents by another country. If you have concerns that documents may be issued by another country, you should contact the embassy of that country for advice.
For information about child alert requests, you can contact the Australian Passport Information Service. To be placed on the list you will need to provide the following:
- a Child Alert Request form
- a copy of any court order (under court seal and certified) that confirms that you are a person with parental responsibility for the child
- any court order (under court seal and certified) regarding the issue of a passport for the child
- an accompanying statement (if necessary).
The AFP maintains the Family Law Watchlist. This information is used to identify whether certain children are leaving Australia. It may be used in circumstances where:
- there is a parenting order made by the court which prevents or places restrictions on a child travelling overseas and which also requests the AFP to place the child on the Family Law Watchlist. The order must clearly state whether there is a total ban on travel, or a conditional ban and any time limit for the ban.
- there is an injunction made by the Court which prevents or places restrictions on a child’s overseas travel.
- there is a parenting order application or an application for an order currently before the court which is seeking to place a child on the Family Law Watchlist and limit or prevent overseas travel.
- the child is covered by a parenting order or injunction that is being appealed.
If you have a relevant document to place your child on the Family Law Watchlist, it is your responsibility to give a sealed copy of it to the AFP. You must provide them with details of any current passport the child has and any possible aliases that may be used. You must also provide a contact telephone number that you can be reached on at any time and an email address. Your application must be emailed or faxed to the AFP together with the Family Law Watchlist Request Form.
Once a child is on the Watchlist, it is your responsibility to advise the AFP if:
- your personal details or information changes
- there are any new court orders that may affect your child’s status on the Family Law Watchlist
- there is any intended travel by the child (if travel is permitted by the court order or otherwise) at least 10 working days before the date of departure.
Under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), it is an offence for a person to take or send a child from Australia:
- in contravention of an order that limits or prevents the child’s overseas travel
- if there are court proceedings for a parenting order that are pending
- if there is an appeal against a parenting order that is pending.
These offences are punishable up to 3 years in prison.