Travel with Children from Separated Families – What You Need to Know

We Australians love to travel, be it interstate or overseas. The world is beautiful and deserves to be seen, and so does our country! But in case of travelling with children from a separated family, it can become a tad complicated. There are additional things to consider, and you’re required to plan more than you would have in different circumstances. If you plan to travel with your children, here’s what you need to know beforehand.

Travel in Australia

For interstate travel, the possibility to take your children with you depends primarily on what arrangements for them are in place. If you are bound by court orders, it is possible that there is a restraint of travel without consent. Another option is that your intended travel may interfere with the other parent’s time with the children. If there is such a court order that is relevant for your planned travel, you need to communicate this well with the other parent. That way you can obtain their consent, which is vital, because failing to do so but still traveling with the children, you will be in breach of court orders. Obtaining a child travel consent to move around Australia is fairly easy if you follow a few steps listed below.

Travel Overseas

If there is a parenting order in place, or an order pending, you might want to postpone your plans for travelling overseas with your children. In this case, if you do not have a written consent of the other parent, or a court order (ss.65Y and 65Z of the Family Law Act), it is an offence to remove a child from Australia. This carries a criminal penalty, so please obtain a consent from your former partner to spare yourself from headaches and legal troubles.

Some countries, such as South Africa, require additional documents: you will need evidence of Court authorisation or consent from the other parent to enter that country (and then leave afterwards) with a child. To do so, you may need to get specific Court Orders in regards to the upcoming trip, or an affidavit from the other parent. Please be informed on the specific requirements that the country you intend to visit has about entering with a child from a separated family.

Child Travel Consent

If you are separated, and want to travel with your child, there’s one key thing you need to bear in mind. You shouldn’t travel compulsively, and you need to notice the other parent about your plan and obtain consent. Giving an appropriate notice is good for two reasons. Firstly, the parent that has been given notice has the time to decide whether they agree or not with you taking the child away on a trip. Secondly, if they do not give you their consent, you will have the time necessary to consider your options and make other plans involving your child.

The reasons the other parent may feel reluctant to give you child travel consent for travelling in Australia or abroad can vary. The other parent can worry about possible risks to the child’s personal safety, or about whether the child will miss other important events. Sometimes the parent can worry about the missed chance to spend time with their child, and sometimes they may even hold concerns about their child being removed from Australia permanently. You need to be able to address each of these issues and assure the other parent that your intentions are genuine and related to you spending your time with your child on a fun trip elsewhere.

If the other parent refuses to agree to your planned travel nevertheless, you can apply to the Family Law Courts for approval. The courts will grant you a permission to travel with your child overseas as long as you can assure them you will return the child to Australia at the end of the travel.

Passports

Sometimes issues in regards to travelling with children can come into existence long before any travel is planned. Obtaining a passport for the child can be the first obstacle you will face, as the passport application requirement for children state that both parents must sign the application. If one of the parents refuses to sign it, the other will need to seek an order from the Court for the child’s passport to be issued. If you fear this might apply to you, give yourself plenty of time, as it can take a while. You will also need to provide a detailed explanation of your intended travel to the court, as well as that you have attempted to have the other parent to sign the passport application.

If You Do Not Wish for Your Child to Travel Overseas

If you are the parent opposing your child’s travel overseas with their other parent, you can refuse to sign the passport application, refuse to release the already existing passport of the child, or make an Application the Family Law Courts to have the child placed on the Australian Federal Police Watch List. If you are concerned about your child’s imminent departure, this process can occur very quickly. If the court then makes the order, the federal police will have to intervene in the case that your child’s passport is used at any exit point.

Another option is to make an application under s.67ZD of the Family Law Act – this will result in your child’s passport having to be surrendered by the other parent.

The important thing to remember, however, is that travelling is highly beneficial and rewarding experience for both adults and children. The safety and wellbeing of your child should, of course, be your primary concern – but consider whether it is possible to balance it with their opportunity to explore the world. To obtain information and legal advice about providing child travel consent for both Australia and overseas travel, consult your family lawyer.

Australian Federal Police Watch List

If one of the parents has concerns about their child’s travel, they can make an application to the Family Law Court to have their child placed on the Australian Federal Police Watch List. This can only happen following a court order, and if your child ends up on the Australian Federal Police Watch List, they will be prevented from leaving any port of exit in the country.

The child can remain on the Watch List into their adulthood. Nowadays it is most common practice to put a child on the Watch List for a specified time. The child can be removed by the AFP Watch List by written consent of both parents, or a court order. If the parent that has placed your child’s name on the AFP Watch List refuses to sign a consent to remove it, you will need to make an application in the Family Law Courts for the removal of your child from the Watch List.

Take-Home Message

If you plan to travel with your children, these are the key things to bear in mind:

  • Give as much notice as possible to the parent you’re seeking consent from.
  • Communicate openly every aspect of the plan: provide the itinerary for your trip, contact details, hotel addresses and numbers, etc.
  • Provide the opportunity for ‘make up time’ to the other parent. If they were supposed to spend time with the children during the period of your planned period of travel, offer them the opportunity to spend additional time with the children after you return.
  • Obtain a passport with the assistance of the other parent. If this fails, ask for a court order to permit the issuing of the child’s passport.
  • To permit the travel and/or to remove your child from the AFP Watch List, seek an order from the Family Law Courts.

If you have any concerns or issues relating to your upcoming travel with your child, or if, on the other hand, you do not want your child to travel with your former partner, please contact your representative at Withstand Lawyers. We are experienced with issues related to travel with children from separated families, and we will give you appropriate legal advice on obtaining or giving child travel consent for Australia and overseas.

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