What is the Family Law Watchlist?

Family Law Watchlist

By cropped Clara Suki

· Read time: 4 minutes

The Family Law Watchlist or Airport Watchlist, is a national register that is designed to prevent children from being unlawfully removed from Australia. The Watchlist operates at both airports and seaports in Australia. If a child attempts to leave Australia and is on the watchlist, the Australian Federal Police will intervene and ensure they do not depart. 

Family Law Watchlist legislation

The Family Law Act 1975 makes it a Commonwealth offence for an individual to take or send a child away from Australia if it is contrary to an order or if there are proceedings regarding a parenting order still pending. This offence carries a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment. 

A parenting order can be obtained under section 65D of the Family Law Act. A parenting order, depending on the circumstances in which it is made, can include provisions regarding your child’s travel. However, getting your child’s name on the Family Law Watchlist will require more than an order. 

How do I put my child on the Airport Watchlist? 

There are two types of Watchlist orders you can obtain. 

  1. An absolute order: this will completely prevent your child from travelling overseas and leaving Australia. 
  2. A conditional order:  this will allow parents or guardians to give authenticated consent which will allow for the child’s name to be removed from the Watchlist for a period of time. This will mean they are allowed to travel overseas for that period. 

Getting your child’s name on the Airport Watchlist will involve obtaining an order or injunction from the Court. 

You can file an application with a Court obtaining an order or an injunction which prevents or limits your child’s travel overseas. This order should also state your wish to have your child’s name be placed on the Family Law Watchlist. 

Once obtaining this order or filing your application, you will have to notify the Australian Federal Police. You can then retrieve and complete a Family Law Watchlist Enquiry Form. This form then has to be submitted to the Australian Federal Police along with your court application or order. 

Family Law Watchlist Enquiry Form 

A Family Law Watchlist Enquiry Form can be found on the NSW Legal Aid website. 

If you do not have a current family law case proceeding, you will need to complete more documents to obtain an order from a Court. Generally, you will need to prepare and file: 

  1. An Initiating Application
  2. An Affidavit; and 
  3. a Notice of Risk to either the Local Court or the Federal Circuit Court. 

If you are currently undergoing family mediation or any dispute resolution process, you may choose to obtain a Section 60I certificate instead. This will need to be filed with your Family Law Watchlist Enquiry Form. 

In deciding whether an order or injunction will be given, a Court will have primary regard to the best interest of the child.

It is important to note that after acquiring all these documents, it is your responsibility to send these to the Australian Federal Police. Only then will your child’s name be placed on the Watchlist. 

How do I remove my child from my watchlist? 

If your child’s name is already on the Family Law Watchlist and you would like to remove it so that they are able to travel, you will need to obtain a Court order. 

If you need any assistance regarding your child’s travel, please feel free to reach us via the contact form.

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