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Child abduction—what is a recovery order?

By Gianna Huesch

The recent high-profile ‘child recovery’ attempt overseas has raised debate over whether a recovery order may have been an option through international agreements. In situations where a parent refuses to return a child, what can be done?

If you are concerned your child may be taken out of the country by the other parent without your consent, it is possible to apply to the court to make an order for the Federal Police to list your child’s name on the Airport Watch List, which means that Border Force officers would not allow your child to leave the country.

If your child is taken overseas without your permission, you should seek immediate legal advice and contact the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department for help, to ascertain whether Australian authorities can intervene to seek the return of children under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction or under a relevant bilateral agreement.

For a situation where a child is taken domestically, courts can issue a recovery order authorising appropriate people like police officers to find, recover and deliver a child to a person with a parenting order regarding that child; it may also prohibit others from taking possession of the child. You can apply for a recovery order if you are a person who the child lives with, spends time with or communicates with as set out in a parenting order, someone who has parental responsibility in a parenting order, a grandparent of the child or a person who is concerned with the care, welfare and development of a child (say, if they live with you but you don’t have a parenting order). The application for a recovery order must be filed with the Family Court of Australia or Federal Circuit Court of Australia, with supporting paperwork.

Read more about child recovery orders:

Do you have any concerns with an ex’s travel plans or need assistance with having your child’s name placed on the airport watchlist, or other parenting matters such apply to a court to issue a child recovery order? Please contact Cristina Huesch here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400 to discuss your particular situation.


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