Despite having either a Parenting Plan or Consent Orders in place, one parent can still refuse to return a child to the other parent at the conclusion of their allocated time. A parent may even go so far as to withhold the child’s location and restrict or prevent time with the other parent.

This is an extremely stressful and difficult time for all parties involved. It is important you seek legal advice as soon as possible to determine your legal options and the best way forward in your circumstances. Our family law team are always available to assist you, and have provided a summary of some of the most common questions asked by parents in this situation:

What is a Recovery Order?

The Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia can make a Recovery Order demanding the child be returned to a particular parent or guardian. If it seems unlikely the parent withholding the child will comply with the Recovery Order, the Court can also use the Recovery Order to authorise a person or organisation (usually the Australian Federal Police) to take all necessary steps required to locate and recover the child.

Who can apply for a Recovery Order?

You are able to apply for a Recovery Order if:

  • You have been granted a Parenting Order for the child; or
  • You are a grandparent of the child; or
  • You are concerned for the care, welfare and development of the child.

What happens if they can’t find my child?

If the child cannot be located, the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia are able to issue a Publication Order. This allows details and images of the missing child and any persons believed to be with the child to be released to the media in order to notify the general public.

It is important to note that the media cannot legally release any case details relevant to a family law proceeding without a Publication Order.

What if my child has been taken overseas?

If the other parent removes the child from the country without your consent, or they do not return the child to Australia, the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department may be able to assist.

Under the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the Hague Convention), Australia has an alliance with a number of countries which authorises the return of abducted children to their home country. Further information in relation to this is available by contacting the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s office on 1800 100 480.

In the event the other parent takes the child to a country that is not covered under the Hague Convention, you should seek urgent legal advice.

If you are concerned the child may be removed from the country, pre-emptive measures can be taken, such as placing the child on an airport watchlist.

Where can I receive further advice?

If you wish to discuss the above further, please get in touch with our friendly family law team who will be happy to assist you and make the process as simple and quick as possible for both yourself, and your children. Call us on (07) 3211 2233 or fill in the enquiry form below and we’ll be in touch.

by Courtney Pomerenke and Stacey Ward