What is an Airport Watch List and how does it work?

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Most families when separating can come to amicable arrangements regarding either parent travelling with the children, however, unfortunately not all situations lend themselves to such agreements. It is possible that in circumstances where one parent is from a different country or poses a threat of absconding with the couple’s children, the other parent might live in fear of the children being taken out of the country. In these cases, the family court system can be of assistance.

Initially, it is best to attempt to work out a reasonable travel schedule with boundaries that fit both parent’s needs. For example, if your spouse is from Europe you might want to give permission for the children to travel with your spouse to visit relatives. In working through this arrangement via a Consent Order, you can both decide the time of year this type of travel would be most appropriate, the amount of time the children can be gone for, and the provision of a detailed itinerary of their trip. This will allow the parent staying behind to know the whereabouts of their children and remain in touch with them.

If you are unable to come to an understanding, and the situation is urgent, you can file an application with the Family Court, or the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and request Parenting Orders for the circumstances. When taking this approach parents will meet with their solicitors and a Family Court or Federal Court judge to discuss the parameters and ramifications of overseas travel.

However, there are situations where a parent’s concern may rise to a much greater level. For instance, if the parent is worried that the other parent might take the children out of the country and never return. This is a much more serious scenario which requires immediate attention. Under these circumstances, a parent can make an application for the children to be placed on the Airport Watch List. This process can be completed by the parent independently; however, it is advised that prior to filing this application parents seek the advice of a solicitor who is familiar with the system.

The Airport Watch list is a list compiled by the Australian government of children who might be at risk of being taken out of the country by one parent with the intention not to return.  For your child to be placed on the watch list you must do the following:

  • Apply for a Court Order to place the child’s name on the watch list
  • Complete the application
  • The Order will be issued by either Family Court or Federal Circuit Court
  • The Order must specifically state the children are not to leave the country of Australia
  • Submit the Order to the Australian Federal Police
  • The children’s names will be placed on the list that is distributed to all airports and ports of call
  • In the event that the threat is removed parents can apply for a Discharge Order

While this process can seem simple, there is more information that the applying parent must supply to complete the application. Some of this information includes filing forms that include:

  1. Resident Parent Order – For children that reside primarily with the applicant
  2. Non-Resident Parent Order – For children that do no primarily reside with the applicant
  3. Notice of Risk Form
  4. An affidavit containing the facts that support your application that is witnessed

All of these forms are available online for parents to review and consider prior to beginning the application process. It is important to remember that when a threat appears imminent it will be necessary to move quickly and correctly. Hence it will always be best to elicit the assistance of a solicitor who practices exclusively in Family Law. 

If you find yourself in need of assistance with this or any other legal issue, please contact the law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.

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