As government restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic easing, many families are starting to resume travel.  A common question that separated parents often ask is whether they can travel with their children following a separation, and if there are any restraints on travelling.

Like all families, when travelling overseas or interstate, there are certain matters that separated families need to consider.  Below we address some frequently asked questions when travelling with children from separated families.

Question: Can I travel with my children after separation?

The ability to travel with your children is largely dependent on the care arrangements that are agreed between the parents. If your parenting arrangements are subject to a Parenting Plan, it might stipulate how travel will occur and what information needs to be shared. If your parenting arrangements are subject to parenting Orders, then the Orders may include provisions relating to travel such as when you are permitted to travel with your children, how long you can travel for and what type of notice and information you need to provide to the other parent.  It is important to comply with any Orders in this regard to ensure that you are not contravening any Orders. 

A word of caution, penalties can apply if a person travels internationally with a child whilst parenting proceedings are on foot in the Court unless it is pursuant to Orders or there is certain consent given.  This also applies to situations where Parenting Orders are in place. If your parenting arrangements are not subject to parenting Orders, then it may still be important that you provide notice to the other parent of your intention to travel with the children.  This will promote good co-parenting and keep the lines of communication open.  

It is not uncommon for a parent to feel reluctant for their children to travel.  This may be due to a variety of reasons such as concerns for their personal safety, that they may miss the chance to spend time with the children or perhaps that the children may miss school or other important events.  It can be essential to address any concerns that the other parent may have so that these concerns can be alleviated.

Question: What notice and information do I need to provide to the other parent before we travel?

If you want to travel with the children, you should consider providing the other parent with notice of your intention to travel if it is safe to do so.  Such notice should ideally be provided well before your intended travel dates and should generally contain information such as a detailed itinerary for the planned travel, including flight times, a copy of a return flight confirmation and contact details such as an address and a telephone contact number for the children as some examples. 

If there is a parenting Order or a Parenting Plan in place, then it is important that you check these documents to confirm what information you need to provide to the other parent as there may be certain requirements in this regard.   It is important to contact a suitably qualified lawyer if you are unsure of your obligations pursuant to any Orders or Parenting Plan. 

Question: How do I get a passport for my children?

Typically speaking, if both parents share parental responsibility, then both parents will need to sign any and all documents necessary to facilitate the production of an Australian passport and any renewal for such passports.  If there is an Order for sole parental responsibility, then the other parent may not be required to sign any documents.  Again, it is important that you review any parenting Orders or Parenting Plans and seek legal advice in relation to the meaning of these Orders if you are unsure.

Question: What happens if the parents are unable to reach an agreement about travel?

If the other parent is not agreeable to you travelling with the children, you can attempt family dispute resolution or mediation with respect to this issue. If you are still unable to agree, then the parent wishing to travel with the children may need to make an application to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 1) or Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2)  to determine this issue. If the Court deems that it is in the best interests of the children to travel overseas, then the Court can make an Order that the children can travel overseas without the consent of the other parent.

Question: I am concerned that my partner will remove the children from Australia without my consent.  What can I do?

If you are concerned that your children may be taken overseas without your consent, you can apply to the Court to have the children placed on the Airport Watch List, otherwise known as the Family Law Watchlist.  The Airport Watch List is maintained by the Australian Federal Police and is designed to prevent listed children from travelling overseas without your consent or an Order from the Court.  The Airport Watchlist essentially alerts Police in the event that a person tries to remove the children from Australia.  In this case, the children will be stopped at the airport and will not be allowed to leave the country. Generally, you may apply to place your children on the airport watch list in certain circumstances, including when:

  1. A court has issued an Order limiting or preventing the children’s travel;
  2. A Court has issued an Injunction limiting or preventing the children’s travel;
  3. There is an application before the Court seeking to limit or prevent overseas travel of the children;
  4. There is an application before the Court seeking an Order to place the children on the Family Law Watchlist; and/or
  5. An Order or Injunction is limiting or restricting the children’s travel overseas which is under an appeal.

If you are concerned that your children may be taken overseas, you should seek immediate legal advice.  There are other measures that can also be taken.

Can I travel with my children if their names are on the Airport Watch List but both parents agree for the children to travel? 

If your children are on the Airport Watch List, then it is strongly recommended that you discuss any intended travel with a suitably quailed lawyer before you travel. This is to ensure that you are aware of any potential issues that may arise when you travel.  If your children’s names are registered on the Airport Watchlist and both parents consent to the children being taken out of Australia, then you will need to remove your children’s names from the Airport Watchlist before you can travel outside of the country.  This is an important step which can be overlooked and can be costly and disappointing when travel is already booked. If you wish to remove your children from the Airport Watchlist, and their names were placed on the list as a result of a court Order, you will generally require a further Order removing the children from the Airport Watchlist

Question: My former partner has taken our children overseas without my consent. What can I do?

In circumstances where the children have already been removed from the country without the other parent’s consent, urgent processes can be initiated for their return.  This can include an urgent application under the Hague Convention when children have been taken to a country that is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Hague Convention is an international treaty that provides a pathway to recover children who have been abducted so that they can be returned to Australia, or their home country. Not all countries are signatories to the Hague Convention. If your child has been taken overseas without your consent, you should seek urgent expert legal advice.  Any delay may impact on your chances of success.

It is important that you understand your rights and obligations if you are planning on travelling with your children.  Make an appointment with Shannon Daykin, an Accredited Family Law Specialist, to discuss your circumstances and needs.  

There are several reasons why you may be thinking about relocating, temporarily or permanently. You may wish to move to another town, move interstate or travel to another country.  There is a common law presumption unless a Court makes another order that both parents of a child who is not 18 have parental responsibility for their child, and therefore there are legal implications that must be considered when relocating with a child, whether you are separated or divorced.  

Today’s blog talks through some of the common questions asked when considering relocating with a child within Australia.  The list is not exhaustive by any means, so we encourage you to speak to us to discuss the matter in detail and find out what’s right for your individual circumstances.

What is child relocation?

Child relocation can be described as the changing of a child’s living arrangements to another town, city, state or country. If parents have an order for equal shared parental responsibility, and a change to the child’s living arrangements makes it significantly more difficult for the child to spend time with a parent, then the non-relocating parent’s consent to the relocation or court order permitting the move is needed.

The relevant legislation is s65DAA of the Family Law Act, which explains in detail the process that the court must follow when considering if a child should be spending equal or substantial time with each parent.

How do I get permission to move?

If there is a need to relocate, first and foremost it is encouraged that you talk to the other parent and try to come to an amicable agreement.  You may be able to compromise on the other parent spending longer periods of time during school holidays or longer visits through the year, or your former partner may agree to move to where you are hoping to relocate to.  

Attending dispute resolution can often help in reaching an agreement about the relocation.  If you are able to resolve the issue, it is often best to enter into a written parenting plan or apply to the Family Court for a consent order to formalise the agreement.

How do I make plans for contact between my child and the other parent?

It is important to set out the parameters of contact or “time and communications” with the other parent on the type of contact (for example video calls, telephone calls and physical contact), how frequent communications or visits/time will be, how costs of travel will be split, if and how the child can travel, accompanied or otherwise.  Once you have agreed on the frequency and type of communications, this can be recorded in writing, preferably in the form of a parenting consent order.

What if I can’t reach an agreement with the other parent?  

If you have tried and failed to reach an agreement, you must demonstrate that you have attempted family dispute resolution (with the exception of family violence and other limited exceptions) before you can apply to the Federal Circuit Court for an order that permits relocation.

Obtaining a relocation order can be difficult, expensive and three may be delays.  The court will always consider the best interests of the child before any other factors, as this is the paramount consideration for the court.

How do I apply to the court for a relocation order?

If you are applying for relocation, you will need to include in your application a demonstration of an attempt at Family Dispute Resolution, as well as detailed information of your plans for relocation.  For example, you may need to include information on;

  • where you are going
  • your reasons for the relocation
  • the housing situation
  • plans for school and before/after school care
  • the support system in the new location
  • history of your relationship with your former partner
  • the relationship between the child and each parent
  • your proposals for the child’s time and communication with each parent after any relocation

What if the child is relocated without a court order?

If a parent moves without consent of the other parent or a court order, the other parent may be able to apply to the court for an order that the child or children be returned until an outcome has been determined by the court in certain circumstances.  If a court order is already in place, the other parent may be able to file a contravention application to seek that a party who breaches a court order be punished.

If the other parent takes your child without discussing it with you,  you can apply for a Recovery Order with the court, which enable police officers to take action to find, recover and return a child to you, as well as prohibiting that person from removing or taking possession of the child.

Final Thoughts...

As with any major decision to be made as separated parents, consideration should always be given to where family dispute resolution is appropriate.  This is a means to try and resolve parenting issues without litigation if possible, with the help of a trained and independent professional.

Daykin Family Law have extensive experience in mediating outcomes for clients which can avoid the court process and provide you with certainty.  Talk to us today about how we can assist you.

Shannon Daykin is an Accredited Family Law Specialist with extensive experience in helping with family law matters and dispute resolution. If you are struggling to agree on a relocation arrangement, contact Daykin Family Law today to let us devise a clear plan for you.

We give you expert legal advice on the most appropriate and cost-effective course of action for you and your family.  Contact us on (07) 3852 5490 to make an appointment for a fixed fee initial consultation today.

The blog published by Daykin Family Law is intended as general information only and is not legal advice on any subject matter. By viewing the blog posts, the reader understands there is no solicitor-client relationship between the reader and the blog publisher. The blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a legal practitioner, and readers are urged to consult Daykin Family Law on any legal queries concerning a specific situation.

Navigating government restrictions, school shutdowns, and illness during the coronavirus pandemic

Amidst the many drastic changes COVID-19 is forcing upon our everyday lives, the Family Law Courts have recognised the difficulties some families now face in adhering to their existing parenting arrangements or Orders. This has left many parents unsure of their rights and obligations throughout this pandemic.

As always, the primary concern of parents should be that of a child’s health and wellbeing. We’ve outlined the recommendations made by the Family Court’s Chief Justice and summarised our own guidance in navigating changing family circumstances.

Where restrictions contradict specifications in your parenting arrangement

In some instances, an established agreement or Order of the Court may include obligations on a parent which directly contradict the COVID-19 restrictions set out by the state and federal governments.

An example could include an arrangement in which the drop off/pick up location is specified as the child’s school, many of which are currently closed across the country.

The closure of schools and parents working from home

With many schools and after-hours care centres closed, families are experiencing a drastic change in routine and family dynamic. If one or both parents are able/forced to work from home, we suggest sitting down with both your former partner and your child/ren (separately if needed) in order to create a new family routine which allows for the continuance of both work commitments and schooling commitments, as well as valuable downtime between parent and child/ren.

If one or both parents have been deemed ‘essential workers’ and are required to leave the home for work, alternative arrangements may need to be made, perhaps with the assistance of friends and family.  This is to ensure both you and your former partner are able to fulfil work obligations whilst children are unable to physically attend school.

Independent legal advice should be sought about the best way to record and document any agreement reached to deal with the changes arising from the pandemic relevant to your parenting arrangements.

When a parent falls ill

At some point, members of either household may find themselves having contracted the virus, or fearful of having contracted the virus due to close proximity with someone who has tested positive or recently been overseas.  This will present challenges when children are moving between homes.

Furthermore, a parent may be concerned about their child/ren living within a household in which social distancing and biosafety recommendations are not being adhered to.

If you are concerned about your child’s health or safety, you should consider first raising any concerns you have with the other parent and seek to agree on a resolution that meets the child/ren’s needs and best promotes their wellbeing.  If this is not practical or agreement cannot be reached between the parents, you should consider seeking independent legal advice regarding your specific situation as there are a range of options to assist in resolves issues like this.

Potential solutions

We have some guidance from the Courts, with the Statement from the Honourable Will Alstergren regarding Parenting Orders and COVID-19 released recently.  This provides useful information for families during this difficult period.

If the arrangements you have in place with the other parent are simply unworkable in light of the pandemic then, as a first step, consider reaching an agreement with the other parent to modify any arrangements where necessary. In doing so, it’s important to remember that whilst the specifics of existing arrangements and Orders may not be logistically possible, the purpose and spirit of the order should remain unchanged and the primary priority should always be the health and safety of the child/ren involved.

If you are able to come to a mutually agreed solution, be sure to make the agreement in writing, whether over a formal letter, email or text. With the assistance of a Family Law specialist, any variations to parenting arrangements can be recorded in a way that will least likely cause issues later.  If seeking to vary any orders of the Court, we recommend that you obtain advice about your specific situation.

If you are unable to come to a mutually agreeable solution, or contact with your former partner is not possible, you should consider seeking the assistance of a Family Law specialist or Family Mediation specialist.

Finding a new norm

Amidst the broader changes caused by the pandemic, it can be difficult for many families to maintain routine and normalcy.  This can be particularly difficult for children of separated parents to keep to the routine they had in place with a parent previously when the restrictions make it impossible for them to continue.

The use of video calling and social media, facilitated by a parent as appropriate, are excellent tools for allowing a child to keep in contact with a parent whom they can no longer spend time with in person. Such activities can be built into a larger daily routine or schedule which gives back some of the structure lost without the routine of school and other activities (such as after-school sport).

By using these other methods of communication more frequently, this may assist in ensuring the bond and connection between a child and parent continues during any period where face-to-face contact cannot occur.

Reach out

If you are still unsure about your parental rights and responsibilities, or the effect that COVID-19 may have on your existing parenting arrangement or orders, contact us to discuss your situation and how best to promote your child’s best interests whilst ensuring that you continue to meet your obligations.

If you are still unsure about your parental rights and responsibilities, or the effect that COVID-19 may have on your existing parenting arrangement or orders, contact us to discuss your situation and how best to promote your child’s best interests whilst ensuring that you continue to meet your obligations.

Shannon Daykin is an Accredited Family Law Specialist and Director of Daykin Family Law, offering telephone and video conferencing consultations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and in-person appointments where necessary.

We give you expert legal advice on the most appropriate and cost-effective course of action for you and your family.  Contact us on (07) 3338 5645 to make an appointment for a fixed fee initial consultation today.

The blog published by Daykin Family Law is intended as general information only and is not legal advice on any subject matter. By viewing the blog posts, the reader understands there is no solicitor-client relationship between the reader and the blog publisher. The blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a legal practitioner, and readers are urged to consult Daykin Family Law on any legal queries concerning a specific situation.

When parents separate, it can be one of the hardest times in their lives and the lives of their children. What comes next can lead to uncertainty and stress for everyone involved. Moving from managing one household that once had two parents, to two households with one parent in each can be a logistical nightmare. This is even without the emotional overlay of a relationship breakdown.

What you strive for

In an ideal world, an agreement would be reached by parents as to when the children spend time with each of them and how parenting will be managed across the two household until the children are 18. Apart from some teething issues, the parents will grow their co-parenting relationship with positivity and sensitivity and get it right between them. This is often not the case though.

For some separated parents, the balance is not right and too many roadblocks impact on the flow of life in both households for them and their children. It can feel like hitting up against a brick wall with no end in sight.

What if I don't live in an ideal world?

There are options however to move beyond any impasse and towards a better future for your children. The first step we would suggest for all parents, where appropriate, is to attempt direct negotiations with the other parent.

Direct negotiations do not necessarily need to be face-to-face. Sometimes a planned phone call, an email or even a simple text to explain what is happening and what you would like to change can be helpful. If you have a parenting order in place already, legal advice should be sought as a parenting plan entered into after a parenting order can effectively vary the operation of the order in some circumstances.

Sitting together face-to-face can be ideal, talking over issues in real time and cutting down on the ability for miscommunication over multiple emails and text messages. Often there are logical and reasonable explanations as to why a parenting arrangement is not working and solutions can be found. If parents are able to discuss these issues freely and constructively, then unnecessary conflict can be avoided in this scenario.

If differences can be resolved between parents, this can be a great foundation for a positive co-parenting relationship in the future and reinforces that parents are the best people to make decisions about their children. It can also be the most cost effective way to resolve issues.


Sometimes direct negotiations are not helpful, or are not appropriate because of family violence issues for example.  In this case, parents can utilise mediation services to discuss the issues with an independent third party. This may be needed if one parent wants to significantly change the current arrangement, or there are more complex issues to be resolved, as some examples.

There are a number of options for mediation. The most cost effective being the use of the Family Relationship Centres, Family Relationships Australia or other public and community-based services. These services are able to assist parents to discuss the issues and potentially write up a new parenting plan.

Private mediation services also exist, usually at a higher cost. However, most will allow you to bring your solicitor along. This can be helpful to receive advice on the spot regarding the law relating to your particular matter, your rights and the impact of any proposals. A solicitor can then draft the agreement terms on the day if it is appropriate, usually to be formalised soon after.


Daykin Family Law works with a range of counsellors who know our industry and the specific struggles that separated families face.

Counselling can be a useful process for separated families, particularly if there has been a breakdown in one parent’s relationship with a child or a parent’s behaviour is causing issues.  The counsellor can work individually with parents and children, or together, to identify what isn’t working and work on a plan to move forward.

If all else fails...

The last resort for all parenting disputes is an application to the court for parenting orders.

Depending on the circumstances, you may need to attempt family dispute resolution first. The court requires a Section 60I certificate to be obtained before an application is made to the court. This is a certificate to say you have been to mediation and made a genuine effort to negotiate, that you have invited the other person and they refused to attend or that your matter was not suitable to mediate. The court requires a valid certificate or an exception to apply before the application can be filed.

Litigation: been there, done that

In circumstances where there are already parenting orders in place, the court needs to be satisfied there has been a significant change in circumstances to warrant a change if there is no agreement.

We recommend that you seek independent legal advice if the current Orders you have in place for your children are no longer appropriate or are not working. There can be a range of reasons that a court might allow a parenting order to be varied.

The overarching consideration for the courts when making such decisions are the best interests of the child.

What if I end up in Court?

If you apply to the court, a Family Report may be needed to provide expert evidence to the court about your family and what is recommended to occur.

Independent representation of the children might be necessary by an Independent Children’s Lawyer to ascertain relevant information and assist the court in deciding what is in the best interests of the child.

If the last resort of court is necessary, then Daykin Family Law can guide you through the process. We focus on identifying issues at each step and advising you on your options, so that you can make informed decisions.

By taking a proactive approach to litigation, we have assisted many clients leave the court system sooner and get back to the important task of raising their children and moving on with their lives. We pride ourselves on only a very small percentage of our matters making it to a final hearing in the court because the advice we give is pragmatic and we explore all opportunities available to settle your matter without the high cost associated with litigation to the end.

We're here to help

Daykin Family Law has extensive experience in advising and guiding clients through parenting disputes in and out of court. We can refer your ex-partner to another lawyer who practises collaboratively like us, to work together in the most cost effective and efficient way to resolve all parenting disputes if at all possible. Our Director, Shannon Daykin, is an Accredited Family Law Specialist and a collaboratively trained professional.

Shannon Daykin was also named as a Recommended lawyer in the Leading Family & Divorce Lawyer – Brisbane, and Leading Parenting & Children’s Matters Lawyer – Queensland, lists in the prestigious Doyle’s Guide 2018.

Contact us today for a reduced fixed fee initial consultation to discuss your parenting matter and how we can help you resolve your issues sooner. After we explain the law and your options, we will devise with you an action plan to get from you where you are now to where you want to go. We also offer fixed or capped fees for some services and have a strong reputation for our efficient and swift assistance to our clients.

The phrase ‘equal shared parental responsibility’ is one that can be easily misunderstood to have the same meaning as ‘equal time with the children’. It is not unusual for parents or individuals with children that are subject to parenting matters before the Court to hear this phrase and sometimes be confused. As such, it is important for parties separating, and non-parent applicants before the Court, to understand the meaning of equal shared parental responsibility.

When making a parenting order, the Court applies a rebuttable presumption that it is in the best interests of the child for the child’s parents to have equal shared parental responsibility for the child. Parental responsibility refers to all duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which parents have in relation to their children. These responsibilities and duties that parents have for their children include long term decisions such as determining the children’s religion and making decisions about the child’s health and education.

This then means, unless the Court orders otherwise, it is presumed every parent has this parental responsibility and, as such, parents that have separated or divorced ought to share major decision-making regarding the children. It should be understood that although parental responsibility places an obligation of responsibility on the parent, it does not confer an automatic and absolute right of a parent towards the child. Under Australian legislation, the best interests of the child are paramount to the Court’s decision-making.  It must be in the child’s best interests for an order to be made that both parents have equal shared parental responsibility.  If such an order is made, the Court must then determine whether an order that the child spend equal time with both parents is in the child’s best interests and should be made.  In a lot of cases, for a lot of reasons, this is not reasonably practicable and other time arrangements must be considered.

Orders for parental responsibility in relation to a child are not just for parents.  Such orders can be made in favour of a child’s grandparent(s) or any other person concerned with the child’s care, welfare and development.

If you have recently separated from your spouse or de facto partner, or have a child in your life whose long term care you are concerned about, contact us today for a reduced fixed fee initial consultation to discuss your options.  We have a great depth of experience in children’s matters, including acting for grandparents and non-parent applicants before the Court, and will provide you with no-nonsense, pragmatic advice.   Visit our website for information on our services and contact details.

First published 11 October 2016


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