Family Law Watchlist
What is the family law watchlist?
The Family Law Watchlist (also known as the "Airport Watchlist") is a system where a child's name can be placed onto a list maintained by the Australian Federal Police for the purpose of preventing the unauthorised removal of that child from Australia. The child's name will be registered on the Family Law Watchlist operating at all international departure points; both sea and air. In the event that a person attempts to remove the child from Australia then the child's name will flag on the watchlist and the Australian Federal Police will stop the departure.
Family Law Orders
A parent or other interested party may apply to the Family Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit Court for an injunction pursuant to section 68B of the Family Law Act 1975 preventing the removal of a child from the Commonwealth. Typically these orders are made in circumstances or urgency and it may be possible to make an urgent application without first attending Family Dispute Resolution (ie. mediation). Orders may also be made ex parte (ie. in the absence of the other party) in certain circumstances.
The Australian Federal Police enforce the family law watchlist order made by either the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court. In practical terms this may mean preventing a child from boarding or removing them from an aircraft or sea going vessel.
Where there is an application for a parenting order before the court, it is prohibited to remove the child from Australia unless the Court has granted a separate order permitting travel of the child or the travel is with the written consent of the other parent. For further information, refer to section 65Z(2) of the Family Law Act 1975.
The Australian Federal Police will confirm whether or not your child is on the family law watchlist. A Family Law Watchlist Enquiry Form (available online) will need to be completed and submitted electronically. When submitting the form you will also need to establish your identity by providing a certified copy of a Government issued identification, such as Drivers Licence or Passport. Where possible it is also advisable to provide a copy of the application or order that placed the child on the Family Law Watchlist.
removal from the watchlist
How can a child be removed from the Family Law Watchlist?
If a child is placed upon the Family Law Watchlist by injunction, a further Court order will be necessary for the removal of a child from the watchlist. That is, the interested party must apply to the Court for an order to be made which discharges the previous Court order or discharges a specific part of the previous Court order that restrains the taking or removal or sending on the child from Australia. Further, the order must direct the Australian Federal Police to remove that child's name from the Family Law Watchlist.
Do Family Law Watchlist orders ever expire?
Orders placing a child on the Family Law Watchlist will often contain a "sunset clause" which provides for the order to expire after a certain time, which is commonly a period of two years. Where the Court has not specifically specified a date, the child's name will remain on the Family Law Watchlist until the child attains adulthood (ie. the age of eighteen years).
The Hague Convention
Australia is a signatory to the Convention of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (commonly known as the "Hague Convention")
The Hague Convention seeks to protect children from harmful effects associated from abduction and retention across international boundaries. The convention provides that where a child has been abducted, the child is to be promptly returned to that child's predominant country of residence unless exceptional circumstances apply. Statistics show that 82 children were abducted from Australia during 2014-2015. Out of the 82 children abducted only 56 children (68.29%) were returned to Australia.