Child Custody - Airport Watchlist Order
The Australian Federal Police maintain the Airport Watchlist, also known as the Family Law Watchlist, which is a system designed to alert police to the movement of children. It identifies whether children whose names have been placed on the Family Law Watchlist are leaving Australia.
When is a child placed on the Airport Watchlist?
A child’s name may be placed on the Family Law Watchlist (also known as the Airport Watchlist) in the following circumstances:
- Where a court has issued a Parenting Order limiting or preventing the child’s overseas travel;
- Where a court has issued an Injunction limiting or preventing the child’s overseas travel;
- Where the child is the subject of a Parenting Order Application currently before a court that may limit or prevent overseas travel;
- Where the child is the subject of an Application for an order to place the child on the Family Law Watchlist; or
- Where the child is the subject of a Parenting Order or Injunction under appeal.
How to place a child on the Airport Watchlist
In order to place your child on the Family Law Watchlist you must first complete a Family Law Watchlist request form and, in addition, you need to have either:
- Obtained a court order that limits or prevents the child overseas travel, and which also requests the Australian Federal Police to place the child on the Family Law Watchlist; or
- Filed an application with a court for an order seeking to prevent the child travelling overseas or a Parenting Order that limits or prevents the child’s overseas travel and also requests the AFP to place the child on the Family Law Watchlist.
An order placing the child on the Airport Watchlist must be express, not implied. The Australian Federal Police prefers that orders include a defined period of 2 -3 years for any restriction on the child’s travel. Increasingly, Judges are also favouring a defined period for a Watchlist Order.
Watchlist Orders can also be absolute or conditional. An absolute order will prevent the child travelling altogether. A conditional order will allow for the parents to provide authenticated consent which will remove the child from the Watchlist for a defined period. This consent is a signed statutory declaration by both parties which can be provided to the Federal Police and evidences that the parents consent to the child leaving Australia for a particular period.
Regardless of the orders sought by a parent, once the application placing a child on the Airport Watchlist is filed with the court, the Family Law Act restrains all parties from taking the child concerned out of Australia. Under the Family Law Act, it is a Commonwealth offence for a person to take or send a child from Australia in the following circumstances:
- Where it is contrary to an order limiting or preventing the child’s overseas travel;
- Where court proceedings for Parenting Order are pending; or
- Where an appeal against a Parenting Order is pending.
Taking or sending a child from Australia contrary to an order of the court may result in a charge of contempt of court.
Planning travel with a child
It is highly recommended that you discuss any intended travel with your lawyer, well before you intend to travel, to ensure the travel is permitted and if not, to discuss what steps can be taken to ensure that there are no difficulties. It is also important that parents are aware of their obligations if their child is on the Family Law Watchlist. For example, it is a parent’s obligation or responsibility to:-
- Provide the Australian Federal Police with a child’s passport details, possible aliases and your 24 hour contact number;
- Notify the Australian Federal Police of any changes to your personal detail circumstances;
- Notify the Australian Federal Police of any new orders that may affect your child’s status in the Family Law Watchlist; and
- Inform the Australian Federal Police of your intention to travel (where travel is permitted by court order) no less than 10 working days before your departure.
If you wish to remove your child from the Airport Watchlist, and their name was placed on the list due to a court order, it is generally required that you obtain a further order removing that child from the Watchlist.
If you are concerned that your child is about to be taken overseas without your permission and in contravention of a court order and the courts are closed, you should immediately seek legal advice. If you have an urgent family law matter after hours, you can contact the Family Law Courts’ after hour’s service or your local police.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.