Family courts and parental abduction

Assisting Australians to resolve their most complex legal family disputes, including parental abduction.

The Family Court of Australia, through its specialist judges and staff, assists Australians to resolve their most complex legal family disputes, including parental abduction and financial cases.

The Court maintains registries in all Australian states and territories except Western Australia (WA), where a separate WA family court system is in place.

As part of the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre (NMPCC) mandate, Family Law cases with Publication orders issued under s.121 of the Family Law Act are published on this website. 

If you are involved in a family law matter, or require information, the Australian Federal Police has a Family Law Kit that will provide you with information relating to:

  • Police and Family Law
  • Parenting Orders
  • Offences
  • The Family Law Watchlist
  • Recovery of children (recovery and publication orders)
  • Confidentiality and privacy
  • Forms
  • Publications
  • Contacts
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Quick Tips on Family Law matters

  • If you have immediate concerns for the safety or welfare of a child, contact the police on Triple Zero (000).
  • If you believe a court order has been breached and your child has been taken by a family member, or parent, you should seek legal advice immediately.
  • If you have concerns your child has been (or is at risk of being) taken out of the country, visit the Attorney General’s website for information relating to International Family Law.
  • If you have an urgent family law matter after hours, you can contact the Courts' after hours service on 1300 352 000 (excluding WA) or 1800 199 008 (WA only). This should only be used in emergencies, such as when an urgent order is required when there is a risk of a child being removed from Australia before the next working day.
  • If your child has been taken overseas, you can also contact International Social Service (ISS). ISS is a search agency that helps trace family members separated by international child abduction, adoption or other legal intervention.

International parental child abduction and the Hague Convention

International parental child abduction occurs when one parent or guardian takes their child from their home country either without the permission of the other parent or guardian or without the authorisation of a court, or fails to return the child on the pre-arranged date.

The process in having the child returned to Australia depends on the country the child is being held in, and if the country is a member of the Hague Convention.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction provides a process through which a parent can seek to have their child returned to their home country. Australia is currently signed on to the international agreement allowing a lawful procedure for seeking the return of abducted children to their home country. The Australian Central Authority within the Attorney-General's Department is responsible for administering the Hague Convention and actioning of applications for the return of an abducted child to Australia. The Attorney Generals Department website contains the list of Hague Convention countries, application forms as well as additional information of the Hague Convention and international parental child abduction.

Australia also holds bilateral agreements with Egypt and Lebanon and they are known as the Australian-Egypt Agreement and Australian-Lebanon Agreement. Further information on these agreements can be found on the Attorney General's Department website.

For additional assistance in recovering your child from a Hague Convention country, can be sought through the International Social Services Australia, who provides legal assistance preparing application documents.

If your child is located in a non Hague Convention Country, you will need to seek private legal assistance in that country about your options. Depending on the country  the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) may be able to assist with limited consular assistance, this may include the provision of a local list of lawyers and liaison with local authorities and child welfare agencies.

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