Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky

First Things First: Children’s Passports

By Patricia Schrape, Associate at Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky Lawyers

28 February 2014

When marriages and relationships break down, there can be very little trust left. This is often amplified when the people in question have children. When relations between parents are extremely dire, particularly when there is extended family overseas, many people start thinking of a worst case scenario and their minds turn to their children’s passports.

If your child does not have a passport

  • An application for a child’s passport must be completed and signed by all the people who have parental responsibility for the child. Unless there is a Court Order stating otherwise, this means the child’s parents as stated on their birth certificate.
  • If you are concerned that your child’s other parent may make a false application for a passport (ie forge your signature) you can submit a Child Alert Request to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). This will put a ‘flag’ on your child’s name for a period of 12 months, so that DFAT are aware of the parental conflict should a passport application be received.

If your child has an Australian passport

  • If you have possession of your child’s passport, then there is little that the other parent can legally do to remove them from Australia.
  • If the other parent has possession of the passport, and will not provide it to you, you can request that the passport be held by a third-party for safe-keeping. In some cases family lawyers will hold the passport/s and give an undertaking (a very serious kind of promise) that they will not release it without the consent of both parents. In some circumstances the passports can also be held by the Family Court of Western Australia.
  • If the other parent has possession of the passport and you have a very real concern that they may take the children overseas, you can make an urgent application to the Family Court asking for an order that the child’s name be placed on the Airport Watch List by the Australian Federal Police. Being on the List means that the child cannot leave Australia under that passport.

If you have concerns about your child’s passport, or other related issues, the Family Law solicitors at BBV are able to provide advice regarding your specific circumstances.

NB – in the above comments references to ‘child’ relate to Australian citizens under the age of 18 years who have never married. For the full legal definition of child for Australian family law purposes see the Family Law Act 1975 or Family Court Act 1997. If your child is a dual citizen and has a passport/s from countries other than Australia, there are numerous additional considerations.

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