What can I do if my partner takes my child overseas?

What can I do if my partner takes my child overseas?

By cropped Clara Suki

· Read time: 4 minutes

If your parent is taking your child overseas without your permission, there are a few steps you can take including not signing your child’s passport application form, adding the child to the airport watch list, or using the Hague convention to recover the child from overseas.

As most separated couples will share parental responsibility and custody of their children, any relevant travelling decisions should be made by both parents. However, where you have fears that your partner will choose to take your child overseas and not return there are some steps that can be taken.

It is important to consider these steps before the child has been taken overseas – prevention is far easier to implement that try  

Refusing to sign your child’s passport 

The law requires that both parents must sign a child’s passport application. This allows parents to consent to the child using the passport and travelling. Thus, one of the easiest ways to ensure that your child remains in the country involves refusing to sign their passport application. 

You may also be able to lodge a Child Alert Request with the Australian Passport Office to ensure that they know you have not consented to your child’s travel. This can then be taken into account when they decide whether or not to issue a passport to your child. However, if your child is entitled to a passport under the Australian Passports Act 2005, your Child Alert Request might not guarantee that your child does not receive a passport. 

The Family Law Watchlist

Another option you may consider is adding your child’s name to the Family Law Watchlist. A child can be added to the watchlist through a court order. A court order may specify a conditional prohibition or absolute prohibition on travel. Then, after applying for an order, you can file a Family Law Watchlist request form. Having your child’s name on the watchlist will allow the Australian Federal Police to restrict your child’s travel, by both air and sea. This is an effective mechanism to ensure that your ex partner does not travel with your child without you knowing. 

There are also options to limit which countries your child can travel to. By limiting your child’s travel options only to countries that have ratified the Hague convention, you can be confident that there are international mechanisms in place to ensure their return. 

The Hague Convention

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty that covers matters concerning international parental child abduction. It is an international agreement that provides a process by which parents can seek to have their child returned to their home country after a wrongful removal. 

The Family Law (Child Abduction) Regulations 1986 is the Australian law that governs any applications pursuant to the Hague Convention. You can make a request to the Commonwealth Central Authority to take action on your behalf. This will require you to prove several things, such as: 

  • The child is under 16 years old
  • The child resided in the home country immediately prior to their removal 
  • You are exercising rights of custody and parental responsibility over that child, or would be if they had not been removed 

It is also important to note that the application must be lodged within one year of the child’s abduction. 

Are there any exceptions to this? 

If your partner has removed your child from their home country, they can prove that the act was not international abduction if they can prove that an exception applied. Some exceptions that can be considered include: 

  • That you had consented to the removal of the child
  • That you were not exercising parental custody at the time the child was removed
  • That returning the child to their home country would involve great psychological or physical risk to the child’s wellbeing

If the child is of age, their opinion may also be taken into consideration. Other human rights and principles enshrined within other treaties Australia has signed, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, may also be considered in certain cases. 

If you need any assistance regarding your child’s overseas travel with your former partner, please feel free to reach us via the contact page.

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