Child custody orders entered overseas can often be registered and enforced in Australia

When both parents have the right to spend time with a child, Australian law does not permit one parent to prevent the other parent from having access to the child. Most countries have adopted a similar law.

Unfortunately, some parents disobey the law by bringing a child to Australia without the permission of the other parent or of the court that issued the custody order. On other occasions, both parents bring their child to Australia but one parent refuses to comply with the overseas custody order. When children are brought to Australia and a parent refuses to obey a foreign court order, remedies are available.

Registration of an overseas order in Australia

To enforce an overseas child custody order in Australia, the order must be registered with the International Family Law Section of the Attorney-General’s Department. An overseas order can be registered if these conditions are met:

  • The order was made in a country that has entered into an agreement with Australia permitting the enforcement of its child custody orders. Those countries are listed in Schedule 1A of the Family Law Regulations 1984.
  • There is reason to believe that the child or a person who has rights to the child is in Australia.
  • Three certified copies of the order must be provided, together with a certificate from an officer of the court that made the order attesting that the order is currently enforceable in the country in which it was made.

Effect of registration

Once you have registered an overseas order concerning children in Australia, you are entitled to take the same steps to enforce the order in Australia that could be taken by Australian parents who receive parenting orders. Those steps could include a court order that authorizes law enforcement to seize the child so that the child can be returned to a custodial parent. The court can also order mediation and other remedies.

Abducted children

When an abducted child has been brought to Australia in violation of an overseas order, additional remedies may be available under the Hague Convention. Those remedies might be available even if the child is abducted from a country that has not agreed to allow Australia to enforce its court orders concerning child custody. An Australian lawyer, as well as a lawyer in the country where the court order was entered, can work together to seek available remedies under the Hague Convention.

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