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Written by Michelle McDermott

One of the many impacts of COVID-19 in our office has been an increase in enquiries from parents whose child has been removed from the Sunshine Coast area to another part of Queensland or interstate, without that parent’s permission. With job losses in the area, particularly in the tourism/hospitality sectors, many parents have found themselves struggling both financially and emotionally and see their only option as having to move, often seeking the support of other family members such as their parents and/or siblings. 

The question we are asked is what can the ‘left behind’ parent do when their child has been taken away? Sometimes, we can communicate with the other parent and negotiate the return of the child back to the Sunshine Coast. Most often, however, we are required to commence Court proceedings.

When making an Application to the Federal Circuit Court, we usually ask for what we call a ‘Recovery Order’ which means that the child is to be recovered and returned to the person the child was taken from. If we do not know where the child is, then we also ask for what we call a ‘location order’ which is directed to Government agencies and the Federal Police to ask for their assistance in locating where the child may be living.

You can apply for a Recovery Order if you are:

  1. a person who the child lives with, spends time with or communicates with as stated in a parenting order;
  2. a person who has parental responsibility for the child in a Parenting Order;
  3. grandparent of the child, or
  4. a person concerned with the care, welfare and development of the child. For example, you may be the person who the child lives or spends time with but there is no Parenting Order that states this.

When filing an Application for a Recovery and/or Location Order, an Affidavit is also filed which sets out the evidence in relation to the circumstances in which the child was taken/withheld and why it is in the child’s best interests to be returned to the Sunshine Coast. Parents should carefully consider the practicalities of a child being returned, for example where will the child live and who will care for the child if a parent is at work. This is especially important if the child is returned but the other parent does not and remains living where they moved to.

If the Recovery Order is made by the Court, it will direct the Australian Federal Police to locate and recover the child. The parent seeking return of the child needs to be available at short notice to take custody of the child from the police.

If your child has been removed without your consent, it is important to act quickly. Sometimes, a failure to act quickly can be seen by the Court as you having agreed to the removal.

Contact us as soon as possible to arrange an appointment, if you think you may need to apply for a Recovery or Location Order.