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Family Law Watchlist Orders

The Family Law Watchlist (sometimes referred to as the Airport Watchlist) is a list that alerts the Australian Federal Police about the movement of certain children, who are subject to family law orders. When a child’s name is included on the Family Law Watchlist, and that child attempts to depart Australia, an alert is signalled to the Australian Federal Police that there is a limitation or injunction against that child leaving Australia.

If there is an injunction preventing the child from leaving Australia, the Australian Federal Police will not permit the child to depart the country. If the child is permitted to depart Australia, but there a limitation on the child’s travel arrangements, the Australian Federal Police will confirm that those arrangements have been complied with prior to the child being permitted to depart.

Absolute and Conditional Prohibitions on Travel

The most common Family Law Watchlist Order sought is an absolute order. An absolute prohibition on travel prevents the child from departing Australia under any circumstances. The parents of the child, or another person with parental responsibility for the child, cannot consent to the child departing Australia.

A child may depart Australia if the injunction is conditional. Prior to the child being permitted to depart Australia, the parents of the child (or another person with parental responsibility for the child) must provide authenticated consent for the child to depart Australia.

Can a Child Travel Whilst Their Name is on the Family Law Watchlist?

A child subject listed on the Family Law Watchlist will only be permitted to travel if the prohibition is ‘conditional’ and authenticated consent has been provided.

If the injunction is ‘absolute’ the court will need to make an order removing the child from the Family Law Watchlist before the child will be permitted to travel.

Placing a Child on the Family Law Watchlist

Usually, an application under the Family Law Act to either the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court needs to be made and that application needs to expressly seek that the child is placed on the Family Law Watchlist. The Australian Federal Police has published the express wording they require people to include in their application, for both absolute and conditional orders.

Once the application has been filed with the court, the person seeking the order is required to complete a form and send the form together with the application to the appropriate department within the Australian Federal Police.

The Australian Federal Police do not require the court to make the Family Law Watchlist order that is sought in the application before the child’s name is placed on the list.

The court may also make an order for the child’s name to be placed on the Family Law Watchlist of its own motion.

What do I Need to do After a Family Law Watchlist Order is Obtained?

Once a Family Law Watchlist order has been made (or applied for), you should complete the prescribed form for the Australian Federal Police Website and send either the Application or the court order, to the Australian Federal Police.

Removing a Child from the Family Law Watchlist

The child’s name will expire pursuant to the Family Law Order for a defined period, the child turning 18 years of age if there is not a defined period, or otherwise pursuant to further court order.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Michelle Makela

This article was written by Michelle Makela

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (State and Federal Industrial Tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

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