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Preventing Children Being Removed from Australia

Recently, there has been much publicity about children having been removed by a parent from one country, supposedly on the basis of that parent taking a holiday with the children, and not returning the children.

Increasingly we live in a society where parents do not necessarily come from the same countries and have family or cultural ties to other countries. Naturally, parents may wish to expose their children to their home culture or allow them to have a relationship with extended family overseas.

The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction (Hague Convention) regulates the return of children who have been wrongfully removed from a jurisdiction where they are the subject of parenting arrangements that have either been agreed to by parents or have been ordered by a Court.

Some countries are not signatories to the Hague Convention. To ensure that children are not removed from Australia, the Family Law Courts can make orders that restrain a parent from removing a child from Australia.  In doing so, the Family Law Courts are assisted by the Australian Federal Police who operate the Airport Watch list and PACE Alert system.

PACE Alerts are designed to prevent children involved in Family Law proceedings being removed from Australia without the consent of a parent or the Family Law Courts. The system is used in circumstances where there is a fear (supported by appropriate evidence) that a child may be removed from Australia.

The Family Law Act provides that a child who is the subject of family law proceedings or parenting orders is not to be removed from Australia. There is an exception to allow a child to be removed from Australia with the consent in writing of each party or an Order of a Family Law Court.

A person who removes or attempts to remove a child from Australia may be sentenced up to three (3) years imprisonment.

If you have fears that your child may be removed from Australia without your consent, an Application must be made to a Family Law Court seeking that the child’s name is placed on the Watch list. Evidence must be provided to the Court about your fears so that a Court can determine whether the child’s name should be placed on the Watch list.  Parents can also consent to orders that allow a child’s name to be placed on the Watch list.

During the period between making the Application, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) can temporarily place a child’s name on the Watch list, pending a decision of a Court.

It is important to note that a child’s name remains on the Watch list until a Court makes an order for the child’s name to be removed. A PACE Alert can be “amended” to enable a child to travel outside Australia for a specified period.

If an agreement is reached by parents to allow a child to travel outside Australia, the AFP can act on the written authority of the parents or further order of a Court specifying the period that the child is allowed to travel overseas. The AFP may require a parent to provide information including travel itineraries, return pre-paid airline tickets or other details to enable the AFP to be satisfied that the travel outside Australia is legitimate.

The Watch list applies at all international seaports and airports.

Important Notice

This article contains general legal information and is not a complete statement of the law. You should obtain specific advice about your own circumstances and not rely upon this article until you have done so. Best Wilson Buckley Family Law Pty Ltd will not accept any liability or responsibility for loss occurring (including negligence) as a result of any person or entity acting or refraining from acting in reliance on any material contained herein.  Information current as at the date of posting.

© Best Wilson Buckley Family Law Pty Ltd 2013

Liability is limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation