Latest Family Law Insights

Family Law Watchlist

Published November 20th, 2020 and updated July 26th, 2021

With an ever-expanding global community, a parent’s desire to relocate from Australia with their children is becoming more common. Whether it be a desire to return to their country of birth, or the demands of their employment, parents may find themselves faced with a reality that their former partner is seeking to relocate overseas.

Often, this results in parents being faced with the difficult question of what happens to the child of the relationship? Can one parent unilaterally decide to relocate the child?

If an agreement cannot be reached, parties will need to seek an Order from the Court to determine whether or not the child is to remain in Australia or whether they are to relocate.

In high conflict scenarios, there may be fear on the side of a parent who believes their former partner may seek to leave Australia with the child prior to a decision being made either by negotiations between the parents or from an order from the Court. In these circumstances, it can be necessary to obtain an Order from the Court limiting or preventing the child’s overseas travel.

What Are The Benefits of An Airport Watch Order?

airport watch list

Going through a relationship break-up or divorce when children are involved is stressful for all parties involved. If you have been in a relationship and the other parent has dual citizenship and you have a reasonable fear they may seek to unilaterally leave Australia with the child, you can apply to have your children’s names placed on an Airport Watchlist.

Once your application has been approved, you can rest assured that the other parent will not be able to take the child outside Australia without your consent or Order from the Court. Going through a relationship breakup can be one of the most stressful times you have ever experienced. A Family Lawyer has the expertise to assist you with the legal avenues and child custody arrangements to prevent your child from being taken out of the country without your knowledge.

How To Prevent Your Child From Leaving The Country?

Below in quotation marks is content from the Australian Federal Police website

“Generally, under sections 65Y or 65Z of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), it is a Commonwealth offence for a person to take or send a child from Australia;

  • contrary to an order limiting or preventing the child’s overseas travel,
  • where court proceedings for a parenting order are pending,
  • or where an appeal against a parenting order is pending.”

One option available to a parent concerned that their child may be relocated without their knowledge or consent is to register the child on the Australian Federal Police (“AFP”) Family Law Watchlist. This system is designed to alert police of the movement of children by identifying whether children are attempting to leave Australia.

In order to have a child placed on the Family Law Watchlist, a Family Law Watchlist Request Form must be completed. In addition, the parent will need to make an application to the Court seeking an Order limiting or preventing the child’s overseas travel and requesting that the AFP place the child on the Family Law Watchlist. The child’s name will be placed on the Airport Watchlist as soon as the application is lodged.

Once a child is placed on the Airport Watchlist, whether or not they can leave Australia will depend on the terms of the order made.

Airport Watchlist Options For Conditional & Absolute Orders

A Watchlist Order may be absolute or conditional. If you need to place your child on an Airport Watchlist, the order must be specified in detail. The Australian Federal Police requires that orders include defined periods of time for any restrictions or limitations on travel plans for the child. For example,

  • An Absolute order will prevent the child from leaving the country without condition.
  • A child can be permitted to leave the country under a conditional order for a specific period of time and needs the consent of both parents.

How To Remove a Child From an Airport Watchlist Order?

How a child is removed from the Watchlist depends on the terms of the Order made. Generally, if the child is placed on the Airport Watchlist by way of injunction or interim Order, a further Court order removing the child from the Airport Watchlist will be required.

My Child is on the Family Law Watchlist. What Are The Next Steps?

If you have placed your child on the Airport Watchlist and the Courts have approved your order to prevent your child from leaving the country, neither parent can take the child outside Australia under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).

The Airport Watchlist is subject to exceptions specified in section 65Z(2) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)

How Do I Know If My Child Is On The Airport Watchlist?

To find out if your child is on the Watchlist, you will need to submit an Airport Enquiry form. The details enclosed in the enquiry are subject to strict non-publication or distribution of any information in relation to family law proceedings.

You are required to provide Government-issued photo identification such as a passport or drivers license. It is also recommended, if possible, to provide a copy of the Watchlist Order that has been issued for your child.

If you have concerns that your child may be removed from Australia, or you would like to discuss your options for child custody arrangements, please contact one of our team members on 03 9070 9839 or at

Frequently Asked Questions

Are my children on the airport watchlist?

The Australian Federal Police have a system in place to alert them if any of the children on their watch list, also known as Family Law Watchlist, attempt to leave Australia. If you believe your child is on an Airport Watchlist you will need to fill out a Family Law Watchlist Enquiry Form.

How do I contact the Australian Federal Police?

If you need to contact the AFP you can call the phone number of the office for the state you live in on this website:

If you are want to fill out an Airport Watchlist Enquiry Form you can download the form below:

How to remove a child’s name from the airport watchlist?

To remove your child’s name from the airport watchlist, you must seek a Court Order to have the child’s name removed and then wait for confirmation.

What is an Airport Stop or Pace Alert?

The Passenger Analysis Clearance and Evacuation System (PACE) can be used to place an alert that prevents a child from leaving Australia. This is more commonly referred to as an ‘Airport Stop’. The process also applies to sea travel, such as cruise ships.

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Charlotte has a Juris Doctor and Bachelor of Arts majoring in Sociology from the University of Melbourne, and was admitted to practice in March 2019, working exclusively in family law since this time.