A Guide to Recovery Orders

recovery orders

By Ezra Sarajinsky

· Read time: 6 minutes

A recovery order is a court order that mandates the return of a child to their rightful parent or guardian. 

This order is sought in situations where a child has been wrongfully taken away or is being unlawfully withheld from their rightful caregiver.

Who Can Apply for a Recovery Order?

A recovery order can be initiated by various individuals, including:

  • A parent of the child
  • A person with whom the child spends time or communicates under a parenting order
  • An individual with parental responsibility for the child

Purpose of a Recovery Order

A recovery order serves several key purposes:

  1. Locating the Child: It authorises relevant personnel, such as law enforcement officers, to take necessary steps to locate and return the child to their rightful guardian.
  2. Interim Care Arrangements: It provides guidelines for the child’s care until their return to their legal guardian.
  3. Preventing Further Removal: It prohibits the individual who initially took the child from doing so again.

Understanding Recovery Orders

A recovery order, as defined by Section 67Q of the Family Law Act 1975, is a court order designed to facilitate the return of a child to a parent, a person with parenting orders, or someone with parental responsibility. 

It is a powerful tool that can authorise law enforcement agencies, typically the Australian Federal Police (AFP), to locate and return the child promptly. 

Notably, a recovery order does not expire upon the child’s return and remains valid for 12 months from the date of issue.

Who Can Apply for a Recovery Order?

Section 67T outlines the eligible individuals who can apply for a recovery order. This includes parents, individuals with parental responsibility, grandparents, and anyone involved in the care, welfare, and development of the child. 

The flexibility of this provision ensures that those with a significant relationship to the child can take legal action to secure their well-being.

Application Process for a Recovery Order

The application process for a recovery order varies depending on whether parenting orders are already in place or if proceedings are pending. 

Applicants with existing proceedings must file an application and an Affidavit, providing crucial details supporting the need for a recovery order. 

For those without ongoing proceedings, the recovery order application is included in the application for parenting orders.

To support a recovery order application, the following information will need to provided in the accompanying affidavits:

  1. Relationship History: This affidavit provides a brief overview of the relationships between the applicant, the alleged abductor, and the child. It should outline the nature of their interactions, including their living arrangements, communication patterns, and any relevant familial ties.
  2. Court History: This affidavit details any previous court appearances involving the applicant, the alleged abductor, or the child. It should include information on family law proceedings, parenting orders, and any other relevant legal matters.
  3. Child’s Information: This affidavit focuses on the child’s current living arrangements, including their usual residence, school attendance, and any significant connections to specific communities or locations.
  4. Circumstances of Child’s Removal: This affidavit explains the circumstances surrounding the child’s removal from the applicant’s care. It should provide details on the date, location, and manner in which the child was taken, as well as any attempts made by the applicant to recover the child.
  5. Child’s Whereabouts and Beliefs: This affidavit outlines the applicant’s belief as to the child’s current whereabouts and the reasons supporting that belief. It should include any information obtained from investigations, communication with the alleged abductor, or other sources.
  6. Best Interests of the Child: This affidavit justifies why returning the child to the applicant is in their best interests. It should emphasise the child’s well-being, emotional stability, and their relationship with the applicant.
  7. Impact of Non-Return: This affidavit describes the potential negative consequences if the child is not returned to the applicant. It should address the child’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being if they remain with the alleged abductor.
  8. Other Relevant Factors: This affidavit includes any additional information that may be pertinent to the recovery order application. This could involve medical concerns, cultural considerations, or unique circumstances surrounding the case.

The First Court Date and Implementation of the Recovery Order

Upon filing, the court aims to list the application for a first hearing within 14 days, demonstrating the urgency attached to recovery orders. 

It’s important to note that the court itself is not a child recovery agency. 

Instead, if a recovery order is granted, the applicant must provide a copy to the relevant authorities, typically the AFP, which then coordinates the child’s recovery.

Challenges in Locating a Child

If the child’s location remains unknown, additional legal avenues may be pursued. 

A location order compels individuals to provide information about the child’s whereabouts, while a Commonwealth information order involves government departments in disclosing pertinent information. 

In extreme cases, a publication order, allowing media involvement, may be sought as a last resort.

International Abduction and the Hague Convention

For cases involving a child taken overseas without permission, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction offers assistance. 

The Convention establishes a framework for the prompt return of abducted children to their home country. The Australian Federal Police’s Family Law Watchlist plays a crucial role in monitoring and preventing unauthorised travel.

Responding to a Recovery Order

If a recovery order is filed against an individual, they have the option to file a response. Legal advice is crucial in navigating this process, and individuals should be aware of the legal repercussions, as outlined in section 67X, for hindering the execution of a recovery order.

Preventing a Recovery Order: Legal Implications

Attempting to prevent a recovery order without reasonable excuse is a legal offence, carrying potential fines and imprisonment. Understanding the consequences and adhering to court orders is imperative.


Recovery orders address a very serious situation, and it is crucial to seek legal help if you are facing this circumstance. We understand the emotional toll this situation can take on you and your family, and we’re committed to providing you with the compassionate representation you need. Please contact Movement Legal today for a confidential consultation. 

Book a free 15 minute call

Contact us for an obligation-free, 100% confidential chat.

Book a call

Need help with your separation?

Our separation packages make the process easier and more affordable.

Book a call