Family Law allows the Family Court to make parenting orders to address travelling matters regarding your children. The order can prevent your child from travelling outside of Australia, or it can limit the countries that your child can travel to, to those countries with which Australia has international child abduction agreements in place.
If your child has a passport and you are concerned that he or she might leave the country you can obtain a court order for a PACE alert that will be sent to the Australian Federal Police. This might be your only option to prevent your child from leaving the country if your child has a passport.
PACE stands for Passenger Analysis Clearance and Evacuation System and can be used at airports or seaports.
If you become aware of plans for your child to leave Australia, and your child does not have a passport, you can apply for an injunction to prevent the issuing of a passport to your child.
The first step is to lodge an application for a court order. If the matter is urgent, you should include a cover letter stating the urgency. You need to include a supporting affidavit to explain why the matter should be dealt with immediately. You do not need to notify the other parent. Your application can be for an absolute prohibition to prohibit all travel outside of Australia, or it can be conditional. Conditions could be that consent of both parents is needed for travel outside of Australia.
You need to provide enough information for the court to consider when deciding on the application. You should include any information that might be relevant to the case, including the following:
Once you have obtained the parenting order, you can apply to the Federal Police to have your child’s details added to the Airport Watchlist.
A PACE alert only allows for twelve lines of information. Be concise, but include specific details – the correct spelling of your child’s name, date of birth, gender and names of possible other persons that may be involved. Accuracy is very important. You can find the preferred wording of such a Watch List Order or a PACE alert on the Australian Federal Police website.
It is important to understand that the order is specifically made for the child. It is not directed at travel with a specific person or parent. You need to think very carefully before applying for a Watch List order. Your child will not be able to leave Australia, not even on an overseas school trip, or an overseas holiday with you. If you are unsure, consult with your lawyer before applying for a PACE Alert or Watch List order.
Once your child’s name appears on the Watch List, the police will be notified immediately if there is an attempt to remove your child from Australia. Your child will be prevented from leaving the country.
The only way you would be able to travel with your child is for you or your lawyer to notify the Australian Federal Police at least 14 days before the intended travel, and you need the written consent of the other parent (or another party to the order) for any overseas travel.
Usually, the order will be made for a two to three year period, depending on the circumstances. If the order does not specify the duration, your child’s name will remain on the list until the age of 18 years.
It is important to notify the Federal Police immediately if the parenting order is changed in any way that affects your child’s ability to travel.
You or your lawyer can enquire by lodging a Family Law Watch List Enquiry form with the Federal Police. You need to provide certified copies of:
This will depend on how your child’s name appeared on the list in the first place. If your child’s name is on the list as a result of a court order, or injunction, you may need another court order to have the name removed. Get legal advice about the process required to have the PACE alert withdrawn and your child’s name removed from the Watch List.
If the order was for a specific duration, your child’s name should be removed at the end of that period.
If a parent takes a child outside of Australia in breach of such a parenting order, the parent can be imprisoned for 3 years.
If a child on the Watch List attempts to leave Australia, the Australian Federal Police will restrain the child and prevent him or her from leaving the country. The parent who applied for the order will be contacted and will need to collect the child at their expense.
The PACE Alert system is an effective measure to prevent unauthorized removal of your child from Australia, but at the same time, it could seriously limit your child’s opportunity for overseas travels. Get legal advice and consider all aspects before you decide to apply to have your child’s name listed on the Watch List.