Our International Family Lawyer Answers Your FAQs

Navigating the complexities of international family law can be challenging for individuals and families, whether it is applying for divorce, arranging child support or requesting recovery orders. A wide range of family law matters may involve multiple jurisdictions, and we understand that obtaining the correct information for your specific matter can be overwhelming. So, in this blog, our international family lawyer will answer some of our most asked questions around international family law.


Are Overseas Child Custody Orders Enforceable in Australia?

To enforce a child custody order made overseas in Australia, the order must be registered to the International Family Law section of the Attorney-General’s Department. Australia has arrangements with a handful of other jurisdictions that allow parenting orders to be registered in Australia - these countries can be found in Schedule 1A of the Family Law Regulations 1984. If a parenting order was made in a country other than those listed in Schedule 1A, a new parenting order may need to be obtained in Australia. You can speak to our international family lawyer about registering an existing order or obtaining a new order, as well as any required documentation.


Are Overseas Marriages Recognised in Australia?

An overseas marriage is usually recognised in Australia if at the time of getting married:

  • The marriage was recognised as valid under the law of the country in which you were married; and
  • The marriage would have been recognised as valid under Australian law if married in Australia.

According to the Marriage Act 1961, you are not required to register your overseas marriage in Australia. All you require is an original or certified copy of your marriage certification or a record of your marriage issued by a competent authority from that country.


Can I Get a Divorce in Australia If I Was Married Overseas?

According to our international family lawyer, you can apply for a divorce in Australia if you were married overseas if you meet a set of specific requirements. You or your spouse:

  • Must be an Australian citizen by birth or descent;
  • Must be an Australian resident;
  • Must regard Australia as your home and intend to live here indefinitely; or
  • Ordinarily live in Australia and have lived here for 12 months immediately before filing for divorce.

You and your spouse must also have been separated for at least 12 months before filing your application.

If you are making a sole application and your spouse lives overseas, you must serve the divorce application on your spouse at least 42 days before your court hearing. If you are unable to serve your spouse and reasonable steps have been taken to do so, you can apply to the Court for a Substituted Service (a third person) or a Dispensation of Service. We recommend seeking legal assistance from an international family lawyer about serving your divorce application.


Can a Child Travel Overseas With One Parent?

If one parent plans to travel overseas with their child, our international family lawyer states they must obtain consent from the other parent. Even if the travelling parent is only planning a short holiday, it is essential to obtain permission, otherwise, it is considered international parental child abduction.

If you believe your ex-spouse is about to leave the country with your child, you must report the matter to your local police immediately and have your child’s name placed on the Family Law Watchlist. In the event that your child is already overseas and is in a country that is part of the Hague Convention, the Australian Central Authority can assist. If you believe your child is in a country that is not part of the Hague Convention, you should seek legal advice from an international family lawyer.


What is the Family Law Watchlist?

The Family Law Watchlist is maintained by the Australian Federal Police, and is used to record children’s names and prevent them from leaving the country. If your child’s name is placed on the watchlist, it will be registered at all international departure points, including airports and cruise ship docks. When an attempt is made by one parent to remove the child from the country, an alert is raised and the child will be prevented by the authority from leaving Australia. To place your child on the Family Law Watchlist, you must first complete a Family Law Watchlist Request Form. Then, you must either:

  • Submit a court order that limits or prevents the child’s overseas travel and also includes a request for the Australian Federal Police to place the child on the watchlist; or
  • File an application with a court seeking to limit or prevent the child’s overseas travel and also includes a request for the Australian Federal Police to place the child on the watchlist.


Can You Receive Child Support If Your Ex-Spouse Lives Overseas?

Generally, a parent must continue to pay child support, even if they choose to live overseas. According to our international family law, child support in Australia is owed as a debt to the Commonwealth rather than the receiving parent. The government can enforce these child support payments, however, it might prove to be a more difficult task depending on the paying parent’s new country of residence. Child support can be enforced if the paying parent lives in a country with reciprocating jurisdictions. You can find the list of reciprocal countries here. Services Australia can liaise with their overseas equivalent to trace parents and enforce child support payments.


Do You Have a Question for Our International Family Lawyer?

These are only just some of the most commonly asked questions regarding international family law. So, if you have any specific questions to ask our international family lawyer, please feel free to get in touch. We can help you with all international family law concerns related to divorce and child support. Please contact us to make an appointment for an initial telephone call. You can also call us to speak to one of our Brisbane specialist family lawyers (07) 3144 1641 or one of our Gold Coast specialist family lawyers (07) 5526 3646.