The children have passports and you have reason to suspect that the other parent will take the children out of Australia. What do you do? You should seek urgent legal advice from a family lawyer is the simplest answer, but here is some more information that might help.

Parents have the ability to put their children’s name on the Family Law Watch List, or sometimes referred to as ‘airport watch list’. The reference to ‘airport watch list’ is a bit inaccurate however because by placing the children’s names on the Watch List it actually puts their names on a list at all departure points of Australia. So that includes airports and boat terminals. Once the children’s names are placed on the Watch List it will prevent the children from being permitted to leave the Commonwealth of Australia.

The question is, how do you get their names on the list? Well to that there either needs to be a Court Order OR simply an Application made the Court seeking an Order that the children be placed on the Watch List. So you can get an Application filed by a lawyer urgently which sets out among other parenting orders sought (if parenting orders are sought) that the children be placed on the Watch List. Once that Application is filed in the Court, a sealed copy of the Application can then be immediately served upon the Australian Federal Police together with a completed Australian Federal Police (AFP) Watch List Request Form.

You don’t need the Court to hear the matter before putting the names on the Watch List, all you need is the Application to be filed that seeks in the Orders sought the Watch List orders. As soon as the Australian Federal Police are served with the Application and Request From, then the children’s names are placed on the Watch List and are protected from being removed from Australia. Your Application to the Court will then take its normal course and when your matter is heard before the Judge you can ask for an Order to be made keeping the children’s names on that Watch List until you can reach an agreement with the other parent or until the Court makes a further Order removing the children’s names from the Watch List.

Your Application to the Court will need to address not only the parenting dispute but the legitimate reasons for the need of the children’s names to be placed on the Watch List. It is important therefore that parent’s get legal advice about what Orders to seek and what information needs to go into the Affidavit.

Where a parent has reason to believe that a child might be removed from Australia before the next business day then they can call an after-hours Court service and potentially get the Watch List Order made immediately.

The ramifications of a child being removed from Australia can be significant, especially where that child might be taken to a country that is not a signatory to The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. I will discuss this in my next article.

What a parent needs to take away from this article is that if they are in dispute with the other parent about international travel for a child, where there are no Orders to offer the parent security of a child being returned to Australia or where there is risks that a parent is likely to take a child from Australia for any reason that causes concern for the parent remaining in Australia, then they need to get immediate advice from a qualified family lawyer.