As family lawyers in Brisbane & the Gold Coast, we often get enquires from parents who are worried that the other parent might take a child overseas without consent. One of the first questions we will ask is whether the child has a passport. If there is no passport issued for the child then the parent can lodge a Child Passport Alert with the Passport Office.
A Child Passport Alert will put the Passport Office on notice that they should give special scrutiny to an Application for a Passport they receive in relation to a particular child. To make a Child Passport Alert request, the person making the request must have “parental responsibility” for the child to which the request pertains. Unless there are court orders stating that one parent has ‘sole responsibility’, there is a presumption that both parents have equal responsibility.
The definition of “parental responsibility” for these types of matters is found in section 11(5) of the Australian Passports Act 2005. While generally this means that the parent’s name is on the child’s birth certificate, parents who are not on the birth certificate may also be held to have parental responsibility. If a parent is not identified on the birth certificate then they must complete a Form B-8 which is designed to gather information to evidence parental responsibility. One such matter considered for example is whether there is a child support assessment in place. It is interesting to note that the same Form B-8 can be used by the other parent to try to bypass the need for both parent’s consent to a Passport being issued in a child’s name.
It is important to know that the Child Alert Request will not guarantee that a passport will not be issued in the child’s name. It will also not cancel an existing passport, whether that passport is an Australian passport or a foreign passport. Finally, if a Child Alert Request is not supported by a Court Order then it will expire in 12 months from the date it is received.
Given the Request won’t guarantee that the other parent will not be able to get a passport issued in the child’s name you should get advice about what steps you should take. It is always best to seek urgent legal advice about your options to prevent a child from being removed without consent from the Commonwealth of Australia (keep an eye out for the upcoming article about how to prevent a child being taken when they already have a passport).
If a child has a passport, then an urgent application to the court may be made to place the child on the airport watch list to prevent the child from being able to leave the country.