The list commonly known as the ‘airport watch list’ (although it also applies to international travel by sea) is used by the authorities to prevent the unauthorised removal of a child from Australia.
Children in Australia cannot leave the country without the consent of their parents, and children subject to ongoing parenting proceedings also cannot leave without the consent of the other party or a court order, according to sections 65Y and 65Z of the Family Law Act 1975. Child abduction in breach of these sections is punishable by imprisonment of up to 3 years. If the child’s name is placed on the Family Law Watch List, the departing parent will be stopped and not allowed to leave.
To place a child’s name on the list, one must apply for a court order and if successful, present this order to the Australian Federal Police who can enforce at all international departure points. In granting the order, the Court would consider the best interests of the child, and whether there is a real and immediate risk the child will be removed and not returned to Australia. Also, the order can be unconditional (barring all travel) or dependent on certain conditions being met.
Once a child’s name is on the Family Law Watch List it will remain there until they turn 18, unless limited to a shorter time period. Many names remain on the list long after the threat is gone and failing to apply for a Discharge Order to remove a child’s name can have unintended negative consequences. The children who were once protected under the order may be caused inconvenience and distress if they begin to travel internationally as teenagers, for example on school sports trips or with friends after their HSC exams.
Apart from the Family Law Watch List, another possible solution is to apply for an application under section 67ZD to have the passport of the child and any other concerned person delivered to the court.
If you are concerned about your child’s overseas travel, or you have any queries relating to the issues raised by this article, please do not hesitate to contact us on 02 8917 8700 or fill out the enquiry box and we will get back to you ASAP.