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International parental child abduction

International parental child abduction occurs when one parent or guardian takes their child from its home country without the permission of the other parent or guardian, or without the authorisation of a court.

This page provides more information on:

If your child has been abducted from Australia—what should you do?

If you are concerned about your child's welfare and safety, report the matter to your local police immediately.
  1. Contact the Australian Federal Police for advice on placing your child's name on the Family Law Watchlist. Your child may not have yet left Australia and it may be possible to prevent them being removed from Australia.
  2. Seek legal advice. You will need a court order to place your child on the Family Law Watchlist. Obtaining recovery orders for your child may also be of assistance. Visit the Support and assistance page for resources to help you locate a lawyer or legal service near you.
  3. If your child has been taken to a country that is a member of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the Australian Central Authority may be able to assist you. For a list of member countries, visit the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction page.
  4. If your child has been taken to a country that is not a member of the Hague Convention, you may be able to get assistance from the Consular Branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The service operates 24 hours a day and can be contacted on 1300 555 135.

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Application process for the return of an abducted child to Australia

If you believe your child has been wrongfully removed from Australia or wrongfully retained overseas in a Hague Convention country without your consent, you can apply for the return of your child.

There are a number of requirements your application must satisfy in order to meet the terms of the convention. These are included in the following document:

A short summary of the application process is illustrated in the diagram below:

This picture outlines the application process for the return of an abducted child to Australia. Once the application is received by the Australian Central Authority (ACA), the ACA assesses the application against the Hague Convention. If the ACA refuses to accept the application, you may appeal the decision. If the application is accepted to the ACA, it will be transferred to the relevant CA in the other country. That Overseas CA will take appropriate action which may include mediation, seeking a voluntary return, or filing in court for the return of the child. If a voluntary return is achieved, the child will return to Australia. If mediation is undertaken and successful, the child will either return to Australia, or the applicant and respondent agree on future access arrangements where the child is located. If mediation is not successful, the application may be filed in court. If the application is filed in court, there may be numerous hearings. The respondent may file evidence in response to the Hague application. You may provide evidence in reply to the evidence provided by the respondent. There may be numerous hearings. If an order for non-return is made, the overseas central authority may decide to appeal. If the order for return is made, the child returns. 

There are other agencies and organisations who can assist you during this application process. This may include support with preparing an application, financial assistance and legal advice. For more details, visit the Support and assistance page or our Questions about international child abduction and access page.

Completed applications can be sent to the Australian Central Authority at:

International Family Law Section
Attorney-General's Department
3–5 National Circuit
BARTON ACT 2600
AUSTRALIA

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Bilateral agreements with Egypt and Lebanon

Australia has bilateral agreements on international parental child abduction with Egypt and Lebanon. These are known as the Australia-Egypt Agreement and the Australia-Lebanon Agreement.

More information about how these agreements work and how applications are processed is available in the following documents:

Application forms for each agreement are available below. Each form includes a statutory declaration form which must be submitted with your completed application.

For more information on statutory declarations, including who can witness your form, visit the statutory declarations page.

For more information about the application process, contact the Australian Central Authority on 1800 100 480 or email australiancentralauthority@ag.gov.au.

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If your child is at risk of being abducted from Australia

There are some steps you can take if you are worried that your child may be abducted overseas by a parent or another family member. It is extremely important that you act quickly. You may also wish to seek additional support and assistance.

What you should do immediately

Make sure you have your child's official documents, including their passport (if they have one) and recent photos of the child and their other parent. You should also note the contact details of family and friends located overseas where the other parent may take your child.

Stopping your child leaving Australia

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) can place your child's name on the Family Law Watchlist, which is a system designed to prevent children whose parents are involved in family law proceedings being removed from Australia without the consent of the court.

To place your child's name on this list you must obtain a court order or an application for an immediate order to prevent your child being taken from Australia. The AFP may be able to prevent travel where it may constitute an offence. For more information, visit the Family law kit page on the Australian Federal Police website.

You can gain assistance to obtain these orders by contacting a lawyer, community legal centre or legal aid commission. Visit the Support and assistance page for resources to help you locate a lawyer or legal service near you.

Preventing the issuing of a passport to your child

A Child Alert Request is a warning to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that there may be circumstances that need to be considered before issuing an Australian passport or other travel document to a child.

If you are the parent, or person with a parental responsibility for a child, you can submit a Child Alert Request on the Australian Passport Office website.

A child alert will not prevent your child from travelling if they already hold an Australian passport or travel document issued by another country. You will need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of that country in Australia to find out if you can apply to stop a foreign passport being issued for your child. Contact details for foreign government representatives in Australia can be found on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

If you are thinking of taking your child overseas

If you are a parent considering removing a child from Australia without the other parent's agreement you should think twice. Doing so may constitute a criminal offence punishable by up to three years in prison. If you want to relocate overseas with your child, you should seek the other parent's agreement in writing, or seek relocation orders through the Australian Family Law Courts.

Hague convention application statistics

The following document contains statistics collected by the Australian Central Authority for the Hague Child Abduction Convention and refers to applications received by the Australian Central Authority:

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