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International Parental Child Abduction

FAQS

Answers to commonly asked questions about international parental child abduction and access.

Legal Service

Our Legal Service is available for free to parents in Australia who have been impacted by IPCA.

Social Work Service

Our Social Work Service provides free support to families who have been or are likely to be impacted by IPCA.

IPCA

International Parental Child Abduction

International parental child abduction (IPCA) occurs when a parent takes a child to another country without the other parent’s consent or refuses to return a child from overseas after an agreed period of time. ISS Australia’s IPCA Legal Service and Social Work Service offer support and assistance to parents and families affected by IPCA, as well as other matters related to separated families and international travel.

Below, you will find our FAQ section, which contains more information about international parental child abduction, prevention, international access arrangements and other related issues.

You can also find useful Factsheets on our Submissions, Policy and Reports page.

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IPCA

IPCA Social Work Service

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Below we provide answers to some commonly asked questions.
I am worried that the other parent is going to take the children out of Australia without my permission – what can I do?

Passport considerations
For an Australian passport, the Australian Passport Office requires both parent’s signatures on an Australian Passport application. There are some exception to this rule, for example if there are parenting orders in place granting one parent sole parental responsibility for your child or if a father does not appear on the child's birth certificate. A parent may also seek for an exception to be made to this rule by raising ‘special considerations’ with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

If you are concerned that the other parent may apply for a passport without your consent, you can make an application for a Child Alert Order to be made. If a Child Alert Order is made, DFAT will notify you of any attempt to have a passport issued to your child. More information about making a Child Alert Request can be found here.

Not all countries require both parent’s signatures on a passport application. If your child is entitled to an overseas passport, we suggest that you make enquiries regarding the circumstances under which a passport from that country can be issued. Contact us to discuss how you can do this.

Family Law Watch List
If you are concerned that your child will be removed from Australia without your permission, it is possible to seek parenting orders in the Family Court of Australia that place your child on the Family Law Watch List. If your child is placed on the Family Law Watch List, their international movements will be monitored and they will not be able to leave Australia from any international point of departure. There may be other associated orders that would be useful in your circumstances.

To have your child placed on the Family Law Watch List, you must first have a Family Law Watch List order made in the Family Court and you must then notify the Australian Federal Police that such an order has been made.

You should seek advice from a private family lawyer, community legal centre or Legal Aid office if you wish to have your child placed on the Family Law Watch List. If you believe that there is an urgent risk that your child will be removed from Australia, you may be able to seek assistance from the duty lawyer service at your closest Family Court Registry.

The Family Court of Australia can also be contacted out of hours in emergency situations.

‍For more information about the Family Law Watch List, please visit the Australian Federal Police’s Family Law Kit.

For more information, you can also download our factsheet about preventing international parental child abduction.

I would like to relocate overseas with my child. Do I require the other parent’s permission?

Under Australian law, parents are considered to have equal parental responsibility for their children. This means that both parents are considered to have equal responsibility for long term decisions about their children, including where they live. You should have the other parent’s permission before you take your child overseas.

If the other parent will not consent to your proposed relocation, you will require a parenting order from the Family Court of Australia permitting you to relocate. You will need to seek legal advice from a family lawyer in relation to the process for seeking relocation orders.

What is international parental child abduction?

International parental child abduction (IPCA) occurs when a parent takes a child to another country without the other parent’s consent or order of a court or refuses to return a child from overseas after an agreed period of time.

Under Australian law, parents are considered to have equal parental responsibility for their children. This means that both parents are considered to have equal responsibility for long term decisions about their children, including where they live. This means that apparent should have the other parent’s permission or an order of the court to remove their child from their place of “habitual residence.”

“Habitual residence” is a complex legal term but usually a child is habitually resident in their country of residence. If a parent removes their child from their place of habitual residence without the permission of the other parent or a court order, this is considered wrongful removal. If a parent travels overseas with their child with permission but then refuses to return the child to their place of habitual residence, this is a wrongful retention.

What is the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction?

In situations where IPCA has occurred, the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (1980 Hague Convention) is a piece of international law that can be used by parents to seek the return of their children to Australia. For parents whose children live overseas, the 1980 Hague Convention can also be used to seek contact with children.

The 1980 Hague Convention is available when the child is located overseas in another country who is also a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention and the 1980 Hague Convention is in force between those two countries (Hague countries).

The 1980 Hague Convention is prefaced on the notion that decisions regarding the child after separation are best made in that child’s place of habitual residence. The 1980 Hague Convention provides a path for decisions to be made about whether the child should be returned to their place of habitual residence. It does not make an order that the child should return into the care of the left behind parent and does not resolve future parenting arrangements in relation to the child.

For more information, you can download our factsheet about the 1980 Hague (Child Abduction) Convention.

My child has been taken overseas without my permission – what can I do?

If the other parent has removed your child from Australia without your prior knowledge or consent, this is a wrongful removal. If you would like to seek your child’s return to Australia, your options will depend on which country your child has been taken to.

If your child has been taken to a country that is a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention, you may be able to make an application for their return to Australia using this Convention. The 1980 Hague Convention is in force between Australia and all other countries that have signed the Convention. A list of 1980 Hague Convention countries is here.

You will need to be able to establish that your child is under 16 years old, that you have rights of custody for your child, and that your child was habitually resident in Australia at the time that they were removed without your permission. Our Legal Service can provide you with legal advice specific to your circumstances. For more information, you can download our factsheet about how to seek a child's return from a Hague Convention country.

If your child has been taken to a country that is not a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention, you may have other legal avenues available to you. ISS Legal Service can provide you with legal advice specific to your circumstances, including advice about financial assistance that may be available. For more information, you can download our factsheet about seeking a child's return from a non-Hague Convention country.

Our Social Work Service can also provide you with emotional and practical support as you go through this difficult time. Lawyers and social workers can work together to ensure that you receive the appropriate support.

The Social Work Service may be able to provide services to children and parents overseas using our International network in around 140 different countries. This can be especially useful for parents whose children have been taken to non-Hague countries.

Many parents may be concerned about how COVID-19 will impact their return application. Parents who are concerned about this can read more about COVID-19 in the following article "Covid-19 and return applications under the 1980 Hague Convention".

I agreed for my children to go on an overseas holiday with the other parent, but now the other parent says that they won’t return – what can I do?

If you gave your consent for your children to travel overseas for a holiday and they have not returned, this is considered a wrongful retention. If you would like to seek your child’s return to Australia, your options will depend on which country your child has been taken to.

If your child has been retained by a country that is a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention, you may be able to make an application for their return to Australia using this Convention. You will need to be able to establish that your child is under 16 years old, that you have rights of custody for your child, and that your child was habitually resident in Australia at the time that they were removed without your permission. The Legal Service can provide you with legal advice specific to your circumstances. For more information, you can download our factsheet about how to seek a child's return from a Hague Convention country.

If your child has been retained in a country that is not a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention, you may have other legal avenues available to you. ISS Legal Service can provide you with legal advice specific to your circumstances, including advice about financial assistance that may be available to you. For more information, you can download our factsheet about seeking a child's return from a non-Hague Convention country.

Our Social Work Service can also provide you with emotional and practical support as you go through this difficult time. Lawyers and social workers can work together to ensure that you receive the appropriate support.

The Social Work Service may be able to link parents with local partners or contacts who can assist with finding supports near to children in these countries. This can be especially useful for parents whose children have been taken to non-Hague countries.

Many parents may be concerned about how COVID-19 will impact their return application. Parents who are concerned about this can read more about COVID-19 in the following article "Covid-19 and return applications under the 1980 Hague Convention".

My child has been taken to or kept in Egypt / Lebanon without my permission – what can I do?

Australia has Bilateral Agreements in place between Egypt and Lebanon. It may be possible for you to make an application pursuant to these Bilateral Agreements with respect to your children. Such an application would have a greater focus on seeking diplomatic involvement to negotiate with the other parent about return and access. There may also be other legal avenues that you can pursue for the return of your child.

The Legal Service can provide you with legal advice specific to your circumstances, including advice about all your legal options and which may be the most appropriate in your case. The Legal Service can also assist you to complete an application using the relevant Bilateral Agreement. For more information, you can download our factsheet about seeking a child's return from a non-Hague Convention country.

The Social Work Service can first and foremost provide emotional support during this very stressful time.

If your child is in Lebanon, your social worker can make contact with our international network partner in Lebanon for local support and assistance.

Can you help me negotiate directly with the other parent for return or contact with my child?

Although our lawyers cannot communicate with the other parent on your behalf, our social workers may be able to use our international network to liaise with the other parent. ISS Australia has an International Family Mediation Service that may be able to assist you to negotiate with the other parent if the other parent is overseas. Please visit our International Family Mediation Service page for more information about this service.

Can I try to recover my child from overseas without legal proceedings?

Travelling to the overseas country with the intention of recovering your child yourself may have significant legal and psychological implications for you and your child. We would encourage you to contact our Legal Service and Social Work Support Service to talk about your situation.

How long does it take to make a return / access application under the 1980 Hague Convention?

Applications go through three stages: preparation of your return application, administrative review by the Central Authorities, and court proceedings in the overseas country. The time taken from when you start preparing your return application to the completion of the court proceedings will vary from country to country.

Where possible, your lawyer will be able to give you an estimate depending upon what country your child is in.  

Is there a cost for your service?

The Legal Service and Social Work Service are both government funded services. We do not charge a fee for most of the above services.

Our International Family Mediation Service does have costs associated with it. ISS Australia is a not-for-profit service dedicated to supporting families separated across borders. We provide many other services, such as international kinship care assessments, family tracing and international family mediation. We would like to be able to continue to offer our full range of services to people in your position.

You can donate to our service here.  

Is international parental child abduction a crime?

International parental child abduction is not a crime in Australia, although it is a crime in some overseas countries. It can be a crime, however, if a person takes, sends or retains their child outside of Australia in breach of a court order or while or while parent proceedings are pending.

My child lives overseas but the other parent isn’t allowing me to have regular contact with my child - what can I do?

This depends on which country your child lives in.

If your child lives in a country that is a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention you might be able to make an access application with respect to your child. Different countries respond to access applications in different ways; for example, some will attempt to facilitate contact using mediation processes and other countries may hear the application before a court.

There might also be other legal avenues available to you in the overseas country. The Legal Service will be able to provide you with legal advice regarding your legal options and the best course of action.

If your child lives in a non-Hague Convention country, you might have legal avenues available to you in the overseas country. The Legal Service can provide you with information regarding your options.

The International Family Mediation Service run by ISS Australia may be very useful in such instances. If you are interested in this service, our trained mediators will assess your individual circumstances and if appropriate, will contact the other parent to organise a mediation. Successful mediation can result in better contact arrangements for both the parents and, of course, for the children.

Our Social Work Service can also get in touch with our network partners and request that they reach out to the other parent with cultural understanding and in a language that may be more familiar to them. This may alleviate the need for formal mediation and/or legal options.

For more information, you can download our factsheet about making an access application under the 1980 Hague Convention.

I brought my child to Australia from overseas and now the other parent wants me to return overseas and I want to stay in Australia – what can I do?

Our Social Work Service can provide different forms of assistance depending on your individual circumstances, i.e. how and why you have come to be in Australia with your child. If there are safety issues for you and your child, your social worker can link you in with appropriate support services in your local area.

Your social worker can also make referrals to organisations that assist with housing and other practical support. Please bear in mind that the Social Work Service does not offer financial assistance. Lastly, your social worker can provide emotional support as you work through the reasons why you have come to Australia and face difficult conversations or decisions with the other parent.

ISS Australia’s Legal Service cannot provide you with legal advice in these circumstances but might be able to assist you with a referral to another legal practitioner.

How can I get in touch with your IPCA services?

If you would like to speak to the Legal Service and/or Social Work Service, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 1300 657 843.

Can I call your service for help but remain anonymous?

ISS Australia’s Social Work Service may be able to speak to you if you wish to remain anonymous.

ISS Australia’s Legal Service will need to collect certain personal details in order to provide you with legal advice. This information will remain confidential.

Can you help me if I am overseas?

ISS Australia’s Legal Service can assist you if you are located overseas, so long as you are calling about an international parental child abduction from Australia. ISS Australia’s Social Work Service can link you with in country support either directly or through our overseas network partners.

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