Children’s passports: getting your ex-spouse’s permission

by Peter Magee on November 8, 2011

Peter MageeBefore booking any tickets or making reservations for overseas travel with a child, always make sure to check the child has a valid passport, and whether you need to obtain permission from the other parent to go overseas. If the child does not have a passport, you will need to seek the other parent’s signature on the Passport Application form. So what happens if the other parent:

  • refuses to sign the passport application,
  • says they don’t want the child to travel overseas,
  • has recorded a Child Alert with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, or
  • has obtained an Order for the child’s name to be placed on the Airport Watch List?

A Child Alert warns the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that there are special circumstances to consider when deciding whether to issue a child’s passport. It does not prevent a child who already has a passport from leaving the country.

If the child does have a passport, please note that a parent can apply for an airport watch list order, which would put a block on a child’s passport. This prevents that child from leaving Australia unless a court order is made lifting that restriction. If the Court can be convinced that there is a risk the child is being abducted to another country or that the child might not return to Australia, the Court might not make an order lifting the restriction. Generally, though, the Court considers international travel to be beneficial for children.

If a child does not have a passport, and the other parent refuses to sign the passport application, you will need to submit both the application for a child’s passport form and the application for a waiver of consent. You may be asked to provide further information with these forms. If the Passport Office refuses your Application, you will then need to seek a Court Order through the Family Law Courts.

In all parenting matters, you are required to attempt mediation as a first step, unless there are concerns about violence or abuse, or yours is a matter of urgency. In both private and government funded family law mediations, parents are encouraged to reach an agreement about their children’s care arrangements and additional issues, such as holidays and passports, with the help of a neutral third party mediator. Lawyers are not necessarily involved at this point. If an agreement is reached through mediation, you should consider whether the agreement should be formalised in enforceable and binding court orders.

If mediation does not result in an agreement, the mediator will give you a “60I Certificate”, which will allow you to commence court proceedings. The court has the power to make orders about a child obtaining a passport and traveling overseas, without the other parent’s consent, however the court processes can be slow except in cases of genuine emergency.

For more information about international travel arrangements in your family law matter, you can contact Armstrong Legal to discuss the issue with one of our experienced family law practitioners by calling (02) 9261 4555.

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