A recovery order is a type of order made by the Family Court of WA in a family law case for the return of a child. It gives the police the power to search for, locate and remove a child from the person keeping the child. An application requesting a recovery order may be made when the following occurs:
a child has been removed or failed to be returned to their primary carer (the person the child normally lives with),
the primary carer has not agreed to the child being kept by the other person, and
the other person has refused to return the child or is making it difficult to discuss their return (for example, not answering calls or messages).
Typically, a recovery order is made by the court in urgent situations when there is a risk for the child if they remain in the care of the person keeping them.
The court can also make a recovery order in some other situations, including if a parent or caregiver removes a child by changing their normal place of residence a long distance from where they usually live without permission from the other parent or caregiver.
The court can make a recovery order for the return of a child if it believes it is in best interests of the child to be recovered from the person keeping them and returned to the care of the person who has asked for the order.
Video: Recovery orders
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Do I have to talk to the person who has kept my child?
The court is very careful about making a recovery order because removal of a child by the police can be traumatic for both the child, their parents and other caregivers.
Generally the court expects parents or caregivers to try and communicate with the person who has kept the child to organise the child's return, before asking the court for a recovery order. However, if you are concerned that communicating with the other person will place you or your child at risk, you should seek urgent legal advice and assistance.
Can the police help me?
If you are concerned your child's safety is at risk in the care of the person who is withholding them, you should contact the police. If there is immediate danger, call 000. For non-emergency help from the police, call 131 444.
You can ask the police for a welfare check to be completed. The police can exercise their powers to remove a child from an unsafe situation.
In most other cases, without a recovery order, the most the police can do is to try and persuade the person keeping the child to return them.
How can I apply for a recovery order?
A recovery order application can be filed with the Family Court of WA on the eCourts Portal of WA Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm. In emergency situations outside of these hours you can call Crisis Care for assistance on (08) 9223 1111 or 1800 199 008 (country free call). Crisis Care can be accessed through the translating and interpreting service on 13 14 50.
Can I apply to the court for a recovery order?
You can apply to the court for a recovery order if you are:
one of the child's parents
a person with parental responsibility for the child, or
someone the child lives with, spends time or communicates with under a parenting order.
Any other person who can demonstrate that they are concerned with the care, welfare or development of the child (for example, grandparents or other caregivers) can also make an application, even if there are no parenting orders in place.
How quickly do I need to act?
In a recovery order situation, where a child is being kept by another person, it is important to act quickly. If you don't act quickly and take steps to try and have your child returned to you, it may be difficult to get a recovery order from the court. Typically, a recovery order application to the court is made within a couple of days of a child being removed or failing to be returned.
What can I do if my child has been taken overseas?
Australia is part of an international agreement, the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which covers applications and arrangements for children to be returned to Australia if they have been wrongfully taken or kept overseas. The child must normally live in Australia and have been taken to another country which is a member of the Hague Convention. You can find a list of Hague Convention countries on the Attorney-General's Department website.
The Australian Government's Attorney-General’s Department deals with applications under the Hague Convention to have children brought back to Australia. It can also help with recovering children from Egypt and Lebanon.
Information about what you need to do if your child is taken overseas can be found on the Attorney-General's Department webpage, International Parental Child Abduction including a 'Guide for applicants - Applying for the return of a child under the Hague Convention'.
International Social Service (ISS) Australia can give free legal advice and assistance if your child has been abducted overseas to a Hague Convention country. You can contact ISS Australia by calling 1300 657 843.
If your child has been taken to a country that is not a Hague Convention country, you may be able to get help from the Consular Branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which you can contact by calling 1300 555 135.
Where can I get help with recovery orders?
Legal Aid WA can give legal advice about recovery orders and provide assistance, including help with urgent applications.
We have a duty lawyer service located at the Family Court of WA in Perth which provides Family Advocacy and Support Services (FASS) including legal advice and social support services to people affected by family violence. The duty lawyer service is a free drop in service (no appointment required) available Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm which can help with urgent family law problems including recovery orders.
FASS is also available when the Family Court is on circuit in Broome, Kalgoorlie, Geraldton, Bunbury and Albany.
Legal Aid WA
Family Court of WA
Reviewed: 17 February 2023