You can’t leave the country

With borders re-opening worldwide, we can once again travel to visit friends and relatives overseas or even just take a well-earned holiday.

 However, if you’re in the middle of a separation, divorce, or custody dispute, you should pack your passport away for now.

 If you want to take your children overseas, you should first try and reach an agreement with the other parent. If you disagree, you must ask the court for permission to take them overseas.

 The court might let your children travel if it’s in their best interest and will consider the risk of you and the children not coming home to Australia. 

 There are very strict laws in place regarding taking children overseas, and if you have a parenting order in place or an application for parenting orders in front of the court, you cannot take your children outside Australia. If you do so without permission, you’re risking jail time. 

 Australia also has agreements with other countries to prevent people from removing children from the country where they usually live. If you take them overseas without the other parent’s consent, you could be ordered to return them under one of these international agreements.

 

As a parent, you should try and negotiate travel arrangements, for example, the length of the trip or accommodation arrangements, and make sure the other parent has your itinerary and contact details and arrangements for regular phone or Skype calls.

Be aware that trying to skirt the system could result in your child’s name being placed on the Airport Watch List, and should someone try to travel overseas with that child, the Australian Federal Police will stop you. 

 Once a child’s name is placed on the Airport Watch List, it will remain there until either a further court order is issued or until the child turns 18. 

 Even as an adult, you can be prevented from leaving the country. Services Australia, formerly the Department of Human Services (Child Support), can issue a Departure Prohibition Order (DPO). 

 A DPO is a travel ban that prevents a parent with an outstanding child support liability from travelling overseas. Technically, the parent with an outstanding debt should be notified after a DPO has been issued as soon as possible. However, in reality, most people discover a travel ban is in place when they present their passports at the departure terminal.

In a recent case, a couple were dual citizens of Australia and Lebanon. They had seven children and spent many years living between both countries, although all the children had been born in Australia.

 At the time of the hearing, the three eldest children had been living in Lebanon for eight years whilst the remaining children travelled back and forth with their parents, and sometimes with only one parent.

 After returning to Australia, the mother alleged significant family violence against the father and sought and obtained a protection order.

 The wife wanted to remain in Australia and not return to Lebanon, but she also wanted her three eldest children returned to Australia. Ultimately, the court stopped the father from leaving Australia and ordered him to return the three eldest children to Australia.

You must get urgent specialist advice if you are concerned about a child being taken out of the country or have questions about travel while dealing with a family law matter. 

 Call Bickell & Mackenzie solicitors on (07) 3206 8700 or email our office at info@bimalaw.com.au for an appointment with one of our team. 

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