Can you stop a child leaving Australia?

Published 27 Mar 2018

During a divorce or separation, it's a fear of many parents that they won't be able to see their children regularly . While provisions for a child's living arrangements or visitation rulings usually ensure both parents can maintain a relationship with their kids, there are sometimes disagreements with court rulings. 

In extreme cases, one parent can attempt to take children out of Australia without the other party knowing. However, if you have parental responsibility, no child can leave Australia without your written consent. 

So, if you don't give written consent for travel, but are worried about someone taking your children overseas, what are your legal options?

The importance of legal assistance

In these circumstances, time is of the essence and the sooner you can start the legal process to stop your children travelling, the more likely that the other party won't be able to get away. 

An experienced and trusted lawyer will explain that there are three possible avenues to take to court. This includes: 

1) Preventing the passport from being issued

Without a passport, nobody can leave Australia. In the event that your child doesn't yet have a passport, you can lodge a Child Alert Request at any Australian Passport Office to stop one from being issued. If an application is made, then the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will advise you.

It's important to note that this option doesn't stop passports that have already been issued, nor applications for foreign passports.

2) Forfeiture of passport to court

If a current passport is already in play, you can apply for it to be forfeited to the court for a specific amount of time. Should the court find there is a serious risk of the child being taken out of the country, the accompanying adult's passport can also be seized.

3) Physical prevented at the border

While the above options can get the desired result, there is the chance to go a step further and ensure your child can't be taken overseas. In serious cases, a court can request the Australian Federal Police (AFP) put the child's name on the Airport Watch List. If an attempt at the border is made, the AFP will physically prevent the parties at the airport.

Of course, once the name is added to the watch list, you'll need to apply back to the court for it to be removed - regardless of whether you have permission for overseas travel or not.

If you would like legal advice about preventing children from travelling overseas, get in touch with our family law team today.

Please call us on 02 8833 2000 to speak with a lawyer

I would just like to say thank you to Anthony who assisted my son in his matter. He is a first home buyer and was pressured into signing a contract prior to obtaining legal advice. The contract was certainly was not the normal straight forward type. To be able to obtain the help and assistance he did from Anthony and rescind the offer the next day, was wonderful. We were able to have a stress free Christmas. I am unable to thank him enough for this. My son and our family will be contacting Anthony when we find the next property.
Kim of Sydney

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Parramatta NSW 2124

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