Family Law Whilst Living Overseas

The world is your oyster were words often said to my sisters and I by my parents when we were growing up. It’s not surprising then that as soon as I could I followed my parents in their expat journey to Hong Kong where I met my husband who was also living his best life as a young expat engineer.

Life saw us spend a number of years back in the UK before the travel bug drew us overseas again ending our journey in Australia which has been our home for the last five years.

Leaving family and friends back in the UK, my husband and I rely on and support one another in our expat life. We have two healthy happy children and are settled here in Australia but what would happen if that changed? What id we were no longer aligned and what would the position be if one of us wanted to return to the UK and the other didn’t? Where would we stand legally, given we are permanent residents and have children?

The lack of family support, missing relatives, not settling and economic struggles can add stress to any relationship. The expat lifestyle doesn’t suit everyone and can add pressure to a relationship which may result in parties going their separate ways. There may be an immediate desire to fly ‘home’ and to be close to family for support. When there are children of the relationship that separation is further complicated.

Where parents separate and one wishes to relocate it is important that the parents talk to one another to try and reach an agreement in the first instance. That may not always be possible. If an agreement is reached, then it is best practice to enter into a written parenting plan or apply to the Family Court for consent orders before the move actually takes place.

If an agreement can’t be reach as to relocating, then the parent wanting to relocate could apply to court for orders to allow them to move. The Court may not grant permission. The Court will consider the best interests and welfare of the children until the case has reached an outcome. If there is a court order in place, you will be breaking the order and the other parent can apply to enforce the order.

If you are concerned that your children may leave Australia without your permission, you can apply to the Court for an order that:

a. Prevents a passport being issued for a child:
b. Require a person to deliver a child’s or accompanying adult’s passport to the Court:
c. Prevent children from leaving Australia.

If your children have been taken from Australia without your consent, or have not been returned to Australia, you should contact the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department for assistance and seek legal advice. Australia has an agreement with some countries to return abducted children to their country of usual residence under the Hague Convention.