My ex-partner is not returning our child: What do I do?

If your ex-partner is not returning your child or not disclosing their whereabouts, despite your parenting arrangement, you should consider seeking a Recovery Order.

If you’ve found yourself in this situation, please consider the following.

Is the child in immediate danger?

If your child is in danger, you should contact the police immediately.

Please note that unless there is an immediate threat to your child’s safety, the police will not get involved. That is, if an ex-partner is not abiding by your informal custody arrangement, but there is no risk to the child, the police will consider this a “domestic dispute’ and will not intervene.

Department for Child Protection:

If you have a strong suspicion and evidence that there is suspected child abuse or neglect, you should call the Child Abuse Report Line (CARL) on 13 14 78.

Please refer to the Department for Child Protection for what should NOT be reported as child abuse or child neglect.

Recovery Order:

A “Recovery Order’ is an order of the Court that can require the child to be returned to a:

  • parent of the child;
  • person who has a parenting order that states that the child lives with, spends time with or communicates with that person; or
  • person who has parental responsibility for the child.

In appropriate circumstances, the Court can order that a body which may have knowledge of the other parent’s whereabouts to disclose this information to the Court. Such orders are commonly made to obtain information form Centrelink, the ATO, banks etc.

To apply for Recovery Orders, a person must also apply for a parenting order or have an existing order. Please contact our office so we can assist in drafting these documents in the appropriate form and filing them with the Federal Circuit Court.

Please note that we can also draft and file these documents on an “urgent” basis.

Police powers under recovery orders:

The court may order the return of the child by way of a Recovery Order, which will be carried out by the Federal police.

The police may also stop and search any vehicle, vessel or aircraft on which the child is suspected to be. In practice, the Federal police will not have the resources at any given time to retrieve a child and this can lead to some delays or to the involvement of the State police, at the request of the Federal police.

Children taken overseas:

The Hague Convention provides for the return of children from a member country to which they have been taken, to the member country of their origin (Australia). A list of the member countries can be found here.

All applications made under The Hague Convention are dealt with by the Australian Central Authority. For a comprehensive insight into how the Australian Central Authority operates, please refer to their website.


Just another Saturday morning‘ by Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.