With winter having now drawn to a close and the days increasingly getting longer, it must mean that the warmer months are on the way. If you’re like me and any of my colleagues, now is the time of year when everyone starts to get a bit itchy about being in the office and looks ahead to booking in their next holiday. International political crises to one side, increasingly, overseas travel seems like the destination of choice for a lot of Australians. Maybe it’s a trip to Bali for a few days, a weekend across the ditch to New Zealand, or maybe a longer trip to Europe or somewhere in the United States.
For families who have existing orders in place for the care arrangements for their children, what may not become obviously apparent is that, before leaving Australia, both parents will normally need to consent to that process occurring. There is a detailed process set out in the family law legislation, which explains exactly how parents who are the subject of existing parenting orders must both agree and document any international travel arrangements.
I won’t bore you with the details of the process here other than to say, it’s detailed! It can require things such as itineraries, copies of return airline flights, significant weeks or months of notice to the other party, confirmation as to which countries will be travelled through, as well as the release of passports which may be held by one parent or by the Court.
Ideally, talking with your former partner at an early stage about your intended travel will go relatively smoothly and agreement will be readily able to be reached.
However, what if you have incurred a significant amount of money towards that upcoming holiday by way of accommodation deposits and payment in full for discount airline flights, and there is a dispute, your former spouse doesn’t agree or, worse, doesn’t respond at all? What happens then?
Hopefully, the parenting orders set out what is to occur and offer a clear path to enable one person to travel overseas with the children provided certain notice is given to the other. Sometimes, however, that wasn’t ever thought of or the children were really young at the time the orders were made.
If that’s the case, then it may well be that you will need a separate Court application to permit the children to travel internationally. While, for you, the prospect of forfeiting the money you have already paid towards the holiday might be daunting, it can often be that the Court doesn’t share your concern as to the amount of those funds. When it comes to urgency of matters before the Court, rarely do applications for international travel stand at the top of the list in the current Court docket system.
Why is all this important? Well simply because now is the perfect time to get in front of these things. Dust off your old orders, read them, understand your obligations. Reach out to your former partner and try and clearly and calmly set out what the travel arrangements are and see if an agreement can be reached.
If there is a dispute, then most likely turning to a process of mediation or family dispute resolution may be your first point of contact. Hopefully, and in my experience, the majority of matters about international travel will resolve there.
If it doesn’t, you at least have some prospects of having the matter heard before a judge and some kind of interim decision made between now and when the travel would likely occur at Christmas. Leave it too late and not only will you be forfeiting the deposit for the trip if your former spouse refuses to agree, but you might find yourself going on the trip alone and the children having to remain in Australia either with some other family member or with your former partner.
If you have any concerns about the orders in your matter, the prospects of international travel and what might be required, our experienced family law solicitors are more than able to assist.