Preventing international travel during family disputes

Date: Oct 12, 2015

Family law disputes regarding children can be highly emotional for everyone involved and come in many forms. Sometimes they can end up in the Family Court when the parties cannot resolve issues regarding children's care and living arrangements between themselves, often due to animosity between the parties following separation.

One of the issues the court often has to deal with is an attempt by one of the parties to abscond with the child to another country, often the country of their birth.

In a case before the Family Court in Sydney, a mother took her daughter back to the country of their birth against her will. She left her there after confiscating her Australian passport so she was unable to return. The daughter then made contact with Australian consular services in that country and a family friend about getting her passport back so she could return to Australia.

The daughter stated that the mother took her back to the country of her birth so that she could "feel the hardship" of growing up in her birth country since she had lived most of her life in Australia.

However, full reasons for the mother's decision remained unclear.

The court ordered that the mother be put on the Airport Watch List to prevent her from leaving Australia. It also required that the mother surrender her daughter's passport to the daughter's lawyers.

In many situations, a party can apply to the court to prevent the other party from travelling internationally with the children if the matter regarding the children's living arrangements is unresolved. This is particularly relevant in situations where one of the parties originally comes from overseas and has connections with the country of their birth. Orders may be sought from the court that every time a parent wishes to take the children overseas for a holiday, a permission of the other parent must be obtained.

Also, if a parent has concerns that a child may leave Australia without their permission, they can apply to the court for an order preventing a passport being issued to the child or requiring the other party who has possession of the child's passport to deliver is to the court for safekeeping until further orders. 

If you feel you would like to know more about family disputes involving children at risk of being taken by one party to live permanently in another country, it is advisable to contact a family lawyer.