Family Law Kit

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Disclaimer: This material is produced by the AFP and is intended to provide general information in summary form on Family Law orders relating to children. We have sought to ensure this information is accurate and current at the time of writing. The contents do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. You should seek formal legal advice from a legal practitioner in particular matters rather than relying only on the information on this page.

Police and Family Law

If you are concerned for the safety or welfare of a child, contact your State or Territory child welfare service, or your local police.

If you have immediate concerns that a child is in danger or at risk of abduction, contact the police in your State or Territory on Triple Zero (000).

The role of police in family law matters is primarily to act on orders issued by a Court, and to prevent the unlawful removal of children from Australia. This may include Recovery Orders, Arrest Warrants and the Family Law Watchlist (previously known as the Airport Watchlist). We understand that family law matters are sensitive and an emotional time for all involved. The AFP will try to assist you where we can and act as quickly as possible in the execution of orders.

Parenting orders

A Parenting Order is an order of a Court issued pursuant to section 65D of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). A parenting order may deal with, but is not limited to, one or more of the following:

  • When or how a child may travel;
  • the person or persons with whom a child is to live;
  • the time a child is to spend with another person or other persons;
  • the allocation of parental responsibility for a child;
  • the communication a child is to have with another person or other persons; or
  • maintenance of a child.

It is the responsibility of the persons that are party to the parenting order to ensure that the conditions imposed by such an order are complied with.

If you are concerned that a party may have breached a parenting order, you should consider seeking legal advice.

Police cannot provide legal advice. If you would like more information about family law procedures and forms, please visit www.familylawcourts.gov.au . Alternatively, speak to your lawyer.

Offences

Generally under sections 65Y or 65Z of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), it is a Commonwealth offence for a person to take or send a child from Australia;

  • contrary to an order limiting or preventing the child’s overseas travel,
  • where court proceedings for a parenting order are pending, or
  • where an appeal against a parenting order is pending.

These offences are punishable by up to three (3) years imprisonment.

Additionally, taking or sending a child from Australia contrary to an order of the court may result in contempt of court.

The above offences may be subject to certain exceptions, discussed below at 'Travelling overseas'.

If you are concerned that a child may be improperly taken out of Australia, you should seek legal advice, or contact police if the matter is urgent

The Family Law Watchlist

The AFP maintains the Family Law Watchlist for family law matters. This system is designed to alert police to the movement of children. It identifies whether children are leaving Australia, and may be in place in circumstances where:

  • the Court has issued a parenting order limiting or preventing the child's overseas travel;
  • the Court has issued an injunction limiting or preventing the child's overseas travel;
  • the child is the subject of a parenting order application currently before the Court that may limit or prevent overseas travel;
  • the child is the subject of an application for an order to place the child on the Family Law Watchlist; or
  • the child is the subject of a parenting order or injunction under appeal.

Placing my child on the Family Law Watchlist.

To place a child on the Family Law Watchlist, you must first complete a Family Law Watchlist Request Form.

In addition, you will need to have:

  • a Court order (made under s34 or s68B) or a parenting order that limits or prevents the child's overseas travel and which also requests the AFP to place the child on the Family Law Watchlist; or
  • filed an application with the Court for a Court order (to be made under s34 or s68B) or a parenting order that limits or prevents the child's overseas travel, and which also requests the AFP to place the child on the Family Law Watchlist; or
  • filed an appeal with the Court against an order of the Court relating to the child that limits or prevents the child's overseas travel, that had requested the AFP to place the child on the Family Law Watchlist.

Applications for court orders relating to a child's travel and the Family Law Watchlist.

An order placing the child on the Family Law Watchlist must be specific and not implied. The AFP prefers that orders include a defined period of 2 to 3 years for any restrictions on a child's travel.

For an absolute prohibition on travel (unless a further order is made), the AFP prefers the following wording in an application for a court order:

"That until further order each party, (given names, second name, surname and date of birth of each party) their servants and/or agents be and are hereby restrained by injunction, and irrespective of authenticated consent as contemplated in Part VII of the Family Law Act 1975, from removing or attempting to remove or causing or permitting the removal of the said child/children (given names, surname and date of birth of each party) from the Commonwealth of Australia for a period of (x) months/years;

AND IT IS REQUESTED that the Australian Federal Police give effect to this order by placing the name/names of the said child/children on the Family Law Watchlist in force at all points of arrival and departure in the Commonwealth of Australia and maintain the child's/children's name/names on the Watchlist for the said period, or until the Court orders its removal."

For conditional prohibition on travel with consent of the parties involved, the AFP prefers the following wording in an application for a court order:

"That until further order, or else subject to the authenticated consent of all parties required to provide consent by Part VII of the Family Law Act 1975, each party, (given names, second name, surname and date of birth of each party) their servants and/or agents be and are hereby restrained from removing or attempting to remove or causing or permitting the removal of the said child/children (given names, surname and date of birth of each party) from the Commonwealth of Australia for a period of (x) months/years;

AND IT IS REQUESTED that the Australian Federal Police give effect to this order by placing the name/names of the said child/children on the Family Law Watchlist in force at all points of arrival and departure in the Commonwealth of Australia and maintain the child's/children's name/names on the Watchlist for the said period, until the Court orders its removal, or with consent of all parties"

You should seek legal advice before seeking court orders.

I have filed an application to place my child on the Family Law Watchlist. What happens now?

If you have filed an application to place your child on the Family Law Watchlist, it is your responsibility to provide that application (under the seal of a court) to the AFP. The Courts will not send this application to the AFP.

Your application must be emailed or faxed to the AFP along with the Family Law Watchlist Request Form (see AFP contacts). Please ensure that you provide a 24 hour contact telephone number and email address.

It is important to note that regardless of the specific orders you are seeking in your application, once the application to place a child on the Family Law Watchlist is filed with the Court, the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) restrains all parties from taking the child concerned out of Australia.

This is subject to the exceptions listed at section 65Z(2) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), or until a court order is made.

To confirm that your child is on the Family Law Watchlist, see Confirming if my child is on the Family Law Watchlist.

The Court has just issued an order placing my child on the Family Law Watchlist. What happens now?

If the Court has issued an order placing your child on the Family Law Watchlist, the Court will usually send that order to the AFP on the same day that the order is made.

However, if you have concerns about the imminent removal of a child, it is suggested that you phone the AFP, and provide a copy of your order by email or fax marked as urgent (see AFP contacts).

To confirm that your child is on the Family Law Watchlist, see Confirming if my child is on the Family Law Watchlist.

Travelling overseas

Generally under sections 65Y or 65Z of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), it is a Commonwealth offence for a person to take or send a child from Australia;

  • contrary to an order limiting or preventing the child's overseas travel;
  • where court proceedings for a parenting order are pending; or
  • where an appeal against a parenting order is pending.

Additionally, taking or sending a child from Australia contrary to an order of the court may result in contempt of court.

It is highly recommended that you discuss your intentions to travel with your lawyer, well before you intend to travel, to ensure travel is permitted.

If your child is on the Family Law Watchlist, whether your child can travel or not will depend on what orders were made by the Court. For example:

  • If there is a Court order (such as a parenting order or injunction) unconditionally preventing the child's overseas travel, you must obtain a further Court order permitting your child to travel, which may also remove the child from the Family Law Watchlist;
  • If there is a Court order (such as a parenting order or injunction) preventing the child's overseas travel, but giving permission if certain conditions are met (such as with the consent of all parties to the Order authenticated in accordance with regulation 13 of the Family Law Regulations 1984 (Cth)), you must provide evidence to the AFP that all of the required conditions have been met before the child travels.

Non-compliance with court orders relating to travel may result in offences against the Family Law Act 1975, or contempt of court.

What if proceedings in my matter are pending?

If an application for a parenting order or other order is pending (i.e. has not yet been resolved), or where an appeal against a parenting order is outstanding, the child will remain on the Family Law Watchlist until the application or appeal is heard and decided by the Court.

In these circumstances, this means the child will be prevented from travelling unless the Court proceedings are finalised, the Court has granted a separate order allowing travel, or travel is in accordance with section 65Z(2) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).

It is important that you give the AFP as much notice as possible of your child's intention to travel. Failure to do so may result in an unnecessary delay at the point of departure or may even result in your child from being prevented from travelling.

The AFP does not have access to the Court's files outside of normal business hours. If the AFP has not been provided with the relevant documentation, by you or the Court, the AFP can only act upon the documentation in our possession at that time. For this reason, the AFP strongly suggests that when travelling, you carry a copy of all relevant documentation, including court orders and statutory declarations.

Confirming if my child is on the Family Law Watchlist.

To establish whether a child is on the Family Law Watchlist, you or your lawyer will need to complete a Family Law Watchlist Enquiry Form. The results of your enquiry will be subject to section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), which creates obligations regarding non-distribution or publication of information related to family law proceedings (see Confidentiality and Privacy).

You must provide a certified copy of a Government issued identification, such as a Drivers Licence or Passport. If possible, and to assist your enquiry, it is recommended that you also provide a copy of the application or order that places your child or children on the Family Law Watchlist.

Completed forms must be emailed or faxed to the AFP (see AFP contacts).

You must provide a return email address. Due to the high volume of enquiries, the AFP will only respond to your enquiry by email. Please allow up to 10 days to receive a response before contacting the AFP.

My child is on the Family Law Watchlist. What are my obligations?

It is your responsibility to:

  • provide the AFP with your child's passport details, possible aliases and your 24 hour contact number.
  • notify the AFP of any changes to your personal details and circumstances.
  • notify the AFP of any new orders that may affect your child's status on the Family Law Watchlist;
  • inform the AFP of your intent to travel (where travel is permitted by a court or consent for example) no less than 10 working days before your departure.

Removing my child from the Family Law Watchlist.

If you wish to remove your child from the Family Law Watchlist, it is recommended that you seek legal advice.

How a child is removed from the Family Law Watchlist will depend on how the child was first placed on the Watchlist. Generally, if the child is placed on the Family Law Watchlist by injunction, a further Court order removing the child from the Watchlist may be required.

If the order requesting the AFP to place the child on the Family Law Watchlist is time-limited, then the child will be removed from the Family Law Watchlist on this date (subject to any subsequent orders).

The AFP suggests that you also provide a copy of your order by email or fax (see AFP contacts).

To confirm that your child is on the Family Law Watchlist, see Confirming if my child is on the Family Law Watchlist.

I suspect my child is about to be taken overseas without my permission and in contravention of a court order, and the Courts are closed. What can I do?

If you are concerned that your child may leave Australia without your permission and in contravention of a court order, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.

If you have an urgent family law matter after hours, you can contact the Courts' after hours service on 1300 352 000 (excluding WA) or 1800 199 008 (WA only). This should only be used in emergencies, such as when an urgent order is required when there is a risk of a child being removed from Australia before the next working day.

If you have immediate concerns for the safety or welfare of a child, contact the police in your State or Territory on Triple Zero (000).

Children already taken overseas

Information regarding children already taken overseas can be found at International Child Abduction (Attorney General's Department Website).

What else can I do?

You may also wish to consider a Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade Child Alert Request. For information about child alerts, contact the Australian Passport Information Service on 13 12 32 or go to https://www.passports.gov.au/web/childalert.aspx.

Note: A child alert only provides warning to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that there may be circumstances which prevent the issue of an Australian passport or other travel document to a particular person, but does not cover passports issued by other countries.

If you think a passport may be issued for a child in another country, contact the embassy of that country. A Child Alert Request does not place the child on the Family Law Watchlist.

Recovery of children

A Recovery Order is an order of a Court issued pursuant to section 67U of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).

A Recovery Order can direct The Marshal, officers of the AFP or officers of State and Territory Police forces to locate and deliver the subject child to a person nominated on the Recovery Order (usually the Applicant).

If you would like more information about Recovery Orders, you may wish to read the Family Law Courts fact sheet ‘Recovery Orders' which provides further information.

How do I obtain a Recovery Order?

If you wish to apply for a Recovery Order, it is recommended that you seek legal advice.

I have a Recovery Order for my child. What happens now?

The AFP will only accept and act upon a Recovery Order issued in accordance with section 67U of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) from the issuing Court.

The AFP receives all Recovery Orders issued by all Courts across Australia, with the exception of Western Australia. The Family Court of Western Australia will refer all Recovery Orders issued in WA to the Western Australia Police. If your Recovery Order was issued in WA, please contact the WA Police.

It should be remembered that the AFP and State and Territory police are coordinating many Australian family law matters (including Recovery Orders) at any one time. This means that State or Territory police may have carriage of a Recovery Order related to your child.

The AFP understands these matters are difficult for all involved and will coordinate and action orders it receives as soon as possible.

Background enquiries

It is important that the AFP is aware of the background in the matter before an attempt is made to recover your child. For the safety of your child and the police officers, the AFP undertakes background enquiries before executing a Recovery Order. To assist the AFP in locating your child and for the safety of all, you should provide the AFP with as much information as you have regarding your child, the Respondent, or any other person that may be with or have knowledge of where the child is. You can do so by first completing a Recovery Order Information Sheet and providing a copy to the Court when making your application for a Recovery Order.

The AFP requires a completed Recovery Order Information Sheet to enable an effective response to the Recovery Order.

Digital photographs of your child may assist and can be emailed to AFP (see AFP contacts).

Referral to a State or Territory police service

The AFP is responsible for the coordination of all Recovery Orders, with the exception of Western Australia. The AFP has agreements in place with the various State & Territory Police services throughout Australia for the execution of Recovery Orders. The State or Territory your child is located in will determine which police service executes your Recovery Order.

Recovering your child

Except in extraordinary circumstances, police will not generally recover a child until the person to whom the child is to be returned is in a position to receive the child and is close by. This is especially so if the child is very young or does not speak English. If the child is interstate, the Applicant must still be as close as possible to receive the child. This reduces the stress on the child and the necessity for the child to remain in police care.

You will not be permitted to be present during the execution of the Recovery Order.

Any costs incurred in effecting the delivery of your child (ie. travel, sustenance or accommodation) will be borne by you and will not be met by the Commonwealth or any State or Territory police service. Police have the discretion not to execute a Recovery Order if you are not able to receive the child.

Also, it is an offence to prevent or hinder a police officer in the execution of a Recovery Order (s67X of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)), or to prevent or hinder a police officer in the execution of their functions generally (s149.1 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth)).

What if I don't know where my child is?

If you do not know where your child can be located, the AFP may suggest that you obtain a Location, Commonwealth Information, or Publication order from the Court to assist in our investigations.

It should be remembered that police are very limited in the enquiries they can conduct in Recovery Order matters. The issuing of a Recovery Order does not necessarily mean that a criminal offence has or may have been committed and therefore may limit our ability to access certain personal information.

It is highly recommended that you discuss your options with your lawyer.

How long are Recovery Orders valid?

Recovery Orders are valid for 12 months from the date of issue unless otherwise stated. A recovery order does not cease to be in force once the order is executed (Note 2 of section 67Q and section 67W(3)), and it may lawfully be re-executed.

However, following the execution of a recovery order your matter is generally mentioned before the Court that issued the Recovery Order and orders may or may not be made by the Court that affect the validity of the Recovery Order. The AFP is generally not informed of any subsequent orders made by a Court. For this reason, as a matter of routine, Police will generally only re-execute a Recovery Order following consultation with the issuing Court.

Confidentiality and Privacy

The AFP is concerned with protecting your privacy in accordance with the Australian Privacy Principles and the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth).

Whenever corresponding with the AFP regarding your children, the AFP will always require that you provide a certified copy* of a Government issued identification, such as a Drivers Licence or Passport. This includes when enquiring if your child is on the Family Law Watchlist or when providing permission for your child to travel.

The AFP may be limited in what information can be lawfully disclosed to you. Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) creates obligations regarding non-distribution or publication of Court proceedings and related information. Police can only discuss specific family law matters with immediate parties to the proceedings, or their lawyer.

There are also obligations on the parties to keep information about proceedings strictly confidential in accordance with section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).

If you would like more information about section 121, you may wish to read the Family Courts fact sheet ‘Publication Orders and Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975' which provides further information.

* For a list of authorised witnesses, please see a List of authorised witnesses on the Attorney-General's Department website.

Forms

Publications

Family Law Courts publications

Legal Aid Commission publications

New South Wales

Northern Territory

Queensland

Victoria

South Australia

AFP contacts

Family Law Watchlist

Phone number: 02 6126 7777
Fax number: 02 6126 7914
Email: AOCC-Alerts@afp.gov.au

Recovery orders & arrest warrants

Phone number: 02 6126 7777
Fax number: 02 6126 7126
Email: AOCC-Family-Law@afp.gov.au

Family Law Courts contacts

Family Law Courts – National Enquiry Centre (Except WA)

Postal address: Family Law Courts, National Enquiry Centre
GPO Box 9991, Parramatta NSW 2124
Phone number: 1300 352 000
Fax number: 02 8892 8585
Websites: www.familycourt.gov.au
www.fmc.gov.au
www.familylawcourts.gov.au

Family Court of Western Australia

Postal address: 150 Terrace Road Corner of Victoria Avenue, Perth WA 6000
GPO Box 9991, Perth WA 6848
Phone number: 1800 199 228
Fax number: 08 9224 8360
Email: family.court@justice.wa.gov.au
Website: www.familycourt.wa.gov.au

Additional useful contacts

Attorney-General's Department

Postal address: Central Office
3-5 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600
Phone number: 1800 100 480
Fax number: 02 6250 5900
Website: www.ag.gov.au

Passports Office

Phone number: 131 232
Email: passports.australia@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.passports.gov.au

Legal Aid

Please refer to your local State or Territory office.

Family Relationships Online – Family Relationships Advice Line

Phone number: 1800 050 321
Website: www.familyrelationships.gov.au

Relationships Australia

Phone number: 1300 364 277
Fax number: 02 6285 4722
Website: www.relationships.org.au

International Social Service Australia

Phone number: 1300 657 843
Fax number: 03 9614 8766
Email: iss@iss.org.au
Website: www.iss.org.au