Getting a Passport for a Child of Divorced or Separated Parents


Do both Parents have to sign a Child's Passport Application?


Do both parents have to sign a passport application for a child? How to get a passport for children of divorced or separated parents is one of the most frequent questions asked after relationship breakdown by parents who want to travel with their children.

Having a passport issued for children of parents who have divorced or separated when one of the parents refuses to sign the Child Passport Application form, is still possible although sometimes a difficult process to go through.

What can you do if you want to get a passport for a child and one of the parents (either the father or the mother) won't sign the passport application form?

The general position is that if you want a passport for a child, then you need the written consent (signature on the child's passport application form) of each person who has parental responsibility for the child.

In most cases this is usually the natural parents of the child named on the child's full birth certificate.

Even if a parent is not named on the birth certificate they may have acknowledged parental responsibility, or they may have been found to have parental responsibility (for example, if a Child Support Assessment has been issued).

After separation or divorce, even if you have an order for sole parental responsibility, the passport office will usually still require both parents to sign the application form unless they are satisfied there are special circumstances.

This is because an order for sole parental responsibility gives a parent sole decision making power for "long term decisions for the child", but it does not completely remove the parental responsibility of the other parent unless that is specifically ordered by the Court, which is very rare.

The reason both parents have to sign a child's passport application form, is to try to protect children of parents who have separated or divorced from being abducted and also to safeguard the rights of both parents of a child.

A parent can refuse to sign a passport application.

You should not organise or book overseas travel until you have a passport issued for your child. 

At a minimum it might take months to get a passport issued.  It could however take more than a year to get a passport issued depending on the extent of steps necessary.


Special Circumstances Application to Passport Office


If a divorced or separated parent can’t get the other parent to sign the passport application form, then they may be able to make a written request to the Australian Passports Office, asking them to consider issuing the passport under “special circumstances” without the consent of the other parent.

There are certain documents the Australian Passports Office will require you to provide to them if you make a special circumstances application.

So that you have the best possible chance of having your special circumstances application accepted and a passport for your child issued, you should think about providing any documents or further information that would help your case.

If you make a special circumstances application to the Australian Passport Office you should send with your application:

  • a copy of the letter to the other parent asking them to sign the passport application.
  • a copy of your return ticket if you have already booked travel.
  • a copy of your itinerary if you have already booked travel.
  • a certified copy of the child's birth certificate.
  • a certified copy of the final parenting order made by the court.
  • a certified copy of any foreign court order if an order has been made by a foreign court.
  • if no court order has been made but a parenting plan has been made, a certified copy of the signed parenting plan.

If the non consenting parent disagrees with the child travelling overseas, the Australian Passports Office may declare that the matter should be determined by a Court.

The Australian Passports Office are not bound by Orders made in foreign courts regarding parental rights and responsibilities, unless they are registered under the Family Law Act 1975.

However, any order made by a foreign court should be submitted with the “special circumstances” request for consideration by the Australian Passports Office.

There is no guarantee the the passport office will grant a passport for a child under a special circumstances application.

If the Australian Passports Office do not accept a parent’s “special circumstances” request, then parent may then apply to the Court for an order permitting the child to obtain a passport and travel overseas.

You may also wish to read our fact sheet about making an application to the court or our fact sheet listing the things a court will consider if you ask them to issue a passport without the other parent's consent.

You can also read more on the Australian Passport Office website and obtain the necessary forms from them.


Getting Child Passport & Overseas Travel - More Information


You may also need to know how you can prevent a Child from Travelling Overseas or what the other parent may be able to do to stop your Child from Travelling Overseas. What can be done depends on whether a passport has been issued for the Child. We have two separate fact sheets you can read explaining what can be done, depending on whether or not the Child has a passport. Those fact sheets are How do I stop a Child from Travelling Overseas: Passport not yet issued and How do I stop a Child from Travelling Overseas: Child already has a Passport.

If you have to go to Court to either get a Court Order to stop your Child from travelling overseas or respond to an Application by the other parent to prevent your Child from being able to travel overseas, then you should read our fact sheet Court Orders preventing a Child from Travelling Overseas.

When you are involved in a Court matter about stopping a Child from travelling overseas, you will need to know the types of things a Court will look at and consider in making their decision as to whether or not they issue an Order about overseas travel for a Child. This is fully explained in the fact sheet What are the matters considered by the Court regarding issuing a a Passport or Overseas Travel Order.



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Content By:
Michelle Beatty, Senior Lawyer
Virtual Legal

Other Questions answered in the Child Passports & Overseas Travel Section


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