School holidays are a wonderful time to travel internationally with your children, making memories that will last a lifetime. When parents are separated or divorced however, travelling overseas with your children becomes somewhat trickier but not impossible.

By law, the written consent of each parent must be provided before an Australian passport can be issued for a child, and both parents must sign an application for a passport. Should one parent wish to travel with a child, and the other parent is refusing to sign an application for a passport, application may be made to the Family or Federal Circuit Courts for an order permitting the child’s passport to be issued without the other parent’s consent.

Alternatively, where there is concern that a child may be taken from Australia without consent, an application may be made to either the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court of Australia, preventing a passport from being issued for a child and the child from travelling outside Australia.

It would be wise not to book overseas travel until you have received the passport for your child. At a minimum it might take months to have a passport issued. It could, however, take more than a year depending upon the steps which may need to be taken.

If your child already has a passport and you wish to travel internationally both parents need to agree on this. When agreement is not being reached you can seek mediation or apply to the court for permission. The court may allow them to travel if it believes it is in the child’s best interests. It will consider the risk of children not being returned to Australia, and may impose conditions, such as paying a security, to make sure they come back.

A Parental Consent form is required to be signed by the parent/s or guardian/s who will not be travelling with the child overseas. It confirms that the child’s travel plans are agreed to, and that it is known that the child will be travelling with the other parent or a third-party adult like a grandparent, aunt or uncle.

Children travelling overseas with only one parent or by themselves often require a Parental Consent form to enter a country. This means that while your child may be able to leave Australia freely (unless they are on the Australian Federal Police (AFP) airport watch list), entering another country may not be as easy. The reason is that some countries take a stricter approach in order to help prevent international child abduction.

Even though consent forms may be different for each country, all forms will contain information about the child and the adult travelling with them. This includes the name and passport number of the child and adult. The adult’s local identity card number and/or that the adult is the authorised guardian of the child is also sometimes included on the consent form.

To be valid overseas, a Parental Consent form is required to be signed before a Notary Public. This means the Consent form will need to be signed by the non-travelling parent/s or guardian/s in front of the Notary.

Sometimes the Parental Consent form will also need to be authenticated and legalised in order to be considered a legal document in the country where the child will be travelling.

It is also important to check whether contents and layout of the Consent form are acceptable to the other country’s border protection authorities. Local foreign offices such as Consulates and Embassies can provide information on acceptable Parental Consent forms and the processes that need to be followed to make these forms legally recognised in their country.

An overseas trip is definitely a possibility with agreements or court documentation in place and the correct paperwork in tow. The more organised you are, the more enjoyable your travels are likely to be, for you and your child. Taking the time to do a little homework is one of the smartest moves a parent can make.

SHAW Dispute Resolution can help you negotiate the agreements and arrangements including who will do and provide information documentation and signed consents in certain time frames to make sure it is clear, certain and smooth in preparation for an exciting opportunity for the children.

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