Airport Watchlist

Stephanie Hope, Family Lawyer at Argent Law, discusses the issue of international travel and airport watchlist Orders.

Many separated parents we assist at Argent Law must deal with the crucial issue of international travel and airport watch list Orders. It is very common for separated couples to want to travel internationally with a child (or children) of the relationship.

In circumstances where one of the separated parents comes from a foreign country, international travel may also be a crucial way for the child to maintain relationships with family members living overseas – such as grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins; as well as fostering the child’s dual cultural identity.

Nonetheless, it is illegal in Australia (punishable by a term of imprisonment) to take a child (or children) outside Australia without the written consent of the other parent (and sometimes other people) in circumstances where Court Orders prevent a parent (or other person) from doing so, or where there is a parenting Application relating to the child (or children) before the Court – that is the Court is in the process of making Orders.

Despite this, if one of the parents is fearful that the parent may travel internationally without their consent, and in particular if a parent fears the other parent may flee permanently with the child (or children), it is important for them to know that the Federal Circuit Court of Australia or the Family Court of Australia can make Orders preventing any person from attempting to remove a child (or children) from Australia, and also to have the Australian Federal Police (AFP) urgently place the child’s (or children’s) name on the airport watch list so that the child (or children) cannot leave Australia.

This applies whether Court orders have been made already, are in the process of being made, or have never been made.

The urgency of these sorts of applications means that the Australian Federal Police has a policy whereby they immediately put a child’s (or children’s) name on the airport watch list as soon as an application for such an order is made to the Federal Circuit Court or Family Court of Australia, or is made ordering the AFP to remove the child’s (or children’s) name(s) from the airport watch list.

However, this short term and urgent step will only last until the Court itself determines the question of whether it’s in the child (or children’s) best interests to travel internationally.

It is therefore necessary for parents seeking Orders restraining a parent from leaving the country with a child, or seeking Orders that the child themselves be prevented from leaving Australia, to actually prove with evidence, that such travel is not in the child’s best interests, including reasons such as:

1.A parent may intend to flee overseas permanently with the child, thereforetheir future safety, care or relationship with their other parent and family may be at risk;

2.The country intended to be visited(or fled to) is a dangerous country; and/ or

3.The country intended to be visited is not a Hague Convention Country, with the result that the country has no agreement with Australia to cooperate with Australia for the return of a child wrongly taken to, or wrongly kept in, another country.

If you are having to grapple with this very important and urgent area of family law, the team of experienced family lawyers at Argent Law can help you TODAY.

Please call 03 9571 7444 today to arrange a confidential advice session.

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