Separated Parents Taking Child Abroad

After divorce, many parents may be wondering if their ex can take their child overseas.

Divorced parents usually share custody and decision-making for their children. So, both parents should agree when planning to travel abroad with the kids.

If a parent plans to take the children overseas, even for a brief trip, they should inform the other parent well.

Some people may worry that their ex-partner could take their children overseas and not bring them back. According to Section 65Y of the Family Law Act, parents can refuse consent and stop their children from travelling abroad.

can i stop my ex taking my child abroad

What Happens if One Parent Takes a Child Out of the Country

If separated Australian parents took their child abroad without the other knowing, they may be able to have them returned to Australia under the Hague Convention.

The Hague Convention is a multilateral treaty, finalised in 1980, that provides a process for parents to use when they are seeking the return of their children to their home country.

The Convention is purely about determining the jurisdiction in which issues of residence and custody of the child should be resolved.

If the ex-partner takes the children overseas without consent, or even one’s knowledge, and refuses to return with them, this becomes international child abduction.

By making an application under the Hague Convention, the other parent can secure the child’s return to Australia.

Call 000 if the child is at immediate risk of abduction.

How to Stop Children Leaving Australia

A separated parent can prevent their ex from taking their child abroad. Here are some ways.

Don’t Sign a Passport

One way to stop separated parents taking their child abroad is to refuse to sign the child’s passport application.

By law, both parents must sign a child’s passport application, giving consent to the travel document being issued.

If the child does not have a valid passport, they can prevent them from travelling overseas by refusing to sign the child passport application.

They can lodge a Child Alert Request with the Australian Passport Office.

A Child Alert Request will notify the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that they have not given consent to a passport being issued to the child and that there are circumstances to be considered before they decide to issue a passport to the child.

However, if the child is entitled to a passport under the Australian Passports Act 2005, a Child Alert is not a guarantee that they will not be able to obtain a passport.

A Child Alert remains in effect for 12 months.

Only a person with parental responsibility for the child can lodge a Child Alert Request.

A parent may also make an application to the court seeking an injunction that prevents the child from being issued a passport. The parent will need to include reasons as to why they believe their child should not have a passport.

A Child Alert Request only covers Australian passports.

Learn what steps you can take next

Add Child’s Name to The Family Law Watchlist

To prevent separated parents from taking the child abroad, one can add their name to the Family Law Watchlist. This list is managed by the Australian Federal Police. However, getting the child on the list usually requires a court order. The parent needs to apply for a Passenger Analysis Clear and Evaluation (PACE) System Alert through the court.

In the application, they can request either a complete ban on travel or limit travel under certain conditions, like needing both parents’ agreement. They can also ask to restrict travel to specific countries covered by agreements like the Hague Convention.

If they believe the child might be taken out of the country soon, theycan request urgent court action to get them on the PACE system. Once the court orders restrictions, they can submit a Family Law Watchlist request to the Australian Federal Police.

Once the child’s name is on the Family Law Watchlist, the police will prevent them from leaving Australia from any international departure point, whether it’s an airport or seaport. Normally, a child’s name stays on the list for two to three years, but in some cases, it might be until they turn 18.

This alert is issued against the child, not the parent or anyone they’re travelling with. So, regardless of who they’re with, the police will stop them from leaving Australia if their name is on the list.