There are laws about moving children, finding missing children and recovery (returning) children in Australia. Some of these are complicated and you may need to take urgent action.
If you want to travel with or move your children without the other parent’s permission, you should get legal advice.
If your children are taken without your agreement, you should get legal advice immediately.C
Get urgent legal advice or support if you or your children are at risk of family or domestic violence or child abuse—contact the police if you or your children are at immediate risk of harm. If they're in someone else's care and you think they may be in danger, contact the police. In an emergency, call 000. Get legal advice.
Moving with children
There are laws about moving with children. These apply even when there are no court orders in place.
If you and the other parent share equal shared parental responsibility for your children, then you will need to talk to each other and try to agree on major long-term decisions that will affect them. This includes moving with children if the distance will significantly affect their ability to have a meaningful relationship with the other parent or other people important to their care. If this happens you can apply for a court order to:
- stop them leaving
- have them returned.
If you want to move with children, you must make a genuine effort to try and sort out an arrangement you and the other parent agree with. You may need Family dispute resolution.
If you can’t reach an agreement then you may need to apply to the court for permission to move with the children. The court must consider whether the move is in the children's best interests balanced against your freedom to move.
When planning to move you should be aware that a court decision may take many months or even years, and there is no guarantee the children will be allowed to move. You shouldn’t assume that it’s all right to move with children because there are no court orders in place. If you move with children without the other parent’s agreement and they apply for a court order, it’s likely you will be ordered to return the children.
What if children are taken or moved without my permission?
If the children are taken or moved within Australia, and it affects your ability to have a meaningful relationship with them, you can apply to the court for a recovery order to have them returned. The Australian Federal Police are usually involved in returning children, but sometimes it is the state police. The cost of returning the children is your responsibility
You may need family dispute resolution before applying to the court. Get legal advice.
What if I don’t know where the children are?
If the children are taken without your agreement, you think they’re in Australia, but you don’t know where they are, you can apply for a location order to find out where they are.
The court can order individuals or government agencies to provide information about where they may be. For example, Centrelink may know the location of the parent who has the children.
If the court decides it’s in the children’s best interests, it can order them to be returned to you.
You should always tell the other parent if you’re taking the child interstate on holiday (as a matter of courtesy). If there is no court order in place, there is nothing stopping you from taking a child interstate for a holiday.
If there's a court order in place, it may prevent children from leaving a particular state or territory—even on holiday. If you’re in dispute about holiday travel, you should try to reach an agreement. A family dispute resolution service may be able to help you. If you can’t reach an agreement, you may need to apply to court. Get legal advice.
Moving children because of violence of child abuse
If you or your children are at risk from family or domestic violence or child abuse, you should get urgent legal advice and support.
Contact the police if you or your children’s safety is at risk. In an emergency, call 000.