A child alert relates to the issue of an Australian passport or travel document.

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.

In this article, we will discuss the PACE alert system.

How do you obtain a court order?

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.

Information to include in the supporting affidavit

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:

  • Facts to indicate why you think your child may be taken out the country and when this might happen.
  • Whether you think it is a temporary or permanent arrangement and why you think so.
  • If the parent who is taking the child overseas says it is temporary but you believe it might be permanent, you need to state reasons why you believe it to be permanent.
  • State whether the other country has a child abduction agreement with Australia.
  • Evidence about your involvement in your child’s life, whether the other parent consults you when making important decisions about your child, or the fact that the other parent makes it difficult for you to spend time with your child, or to communicate with your child.
  • Information about your relationship with your child and the effect it will have on your relationship if the child leaves Australia
  • What is your child’s view and feelings about moving? You can only include this if you are aware of it.
  • Your willingness, and ability, to pay damages if the court grants the order. Include the terms and conditions.


How do you add your child’s name to the Airport Watchlist?

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.

What is the impact of placing your child’s name on the Watch List?

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.

How long does an order last?

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.

How can you find out if your child’s name is on the Watch List?

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:

  • Your identification, and
  • Any documents regarding an application that has been made to have your child’s name included on the list, or
  • Issued court orders.

Can you have your child’s name removed from the Watchlist?

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.

What happens if a parent or your child breaches, or attempts to breach, the Order?

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.

The pace alert system