As a single mum who loved to travel in a previous life, I was always very eager to get my daughter a passport. I wanted to raise her with lots of travel opportunities, and show her the world. We also have family in Europe, and I wanted to take her there to meet her extended family, and show her the beauty of those countries.
Unfortunately, my daughter’s father does not share my enthusiasm for travel, and at 39 years old, has never left Australia. In fact, he has never held a passport himself.
I first broached the topic of getting our daughter a passport, shortly after she was born. He didn’t understand why I wanted a passport for her, and didn’t agree she should have one. He said she wouldn’t need one, and was far too young to travel overseas. Traveling abroad wasn’t something I obviously wanted to do with her whilst she was a baby, but it was one of those things I wanted to tick off the To Do list, so it was ready for later. He didn’t get that.
As the months went on, and particularly after we split up, he became more and more against it. We had huge arguments about it. One day he screamed at me that he did not want me to bring it up EVER AGAIN, and that he would NEVER EVER sign the application form. He said it was our daughter’s choice. And she could choose if she wanted one. At 18.
I thought it was an absolute joke, and it infuriated me that he was so against it, for no good reason. For him, I think, it became more about control. Our daughter was living with me at this stage, in a different state, and this was something he could control. It became more about controlling ME though, and preventing ME from traveling also. Because as if I was going to leave the country on a holiday, without our daughter.
I also wanted to get her a German passport so that she could be a dual citizen. I wanted her to have the option of living and working in Europe when she was older, with no visa restrictions. This was something that I did in my younger years, and it was wonderful. I was worried that Germany may change the laws, and I wanted it done quickly, in case the laws on dual citizenship were changed. I should also point out that my daughter’s father’s father, is also German. So, with both my parents being German also, our daughter is in fact three quarters German. But he was dead set against this as well.
It took me three years to get a passport for my daughter who is now three and a half.
Sadly this is an extremely common consequence of separation. Many fathers (and mothers too; let’s not be sexist) refuse to sign a passport application form for their children. There are many reasons why they may do this. They may be worried that you will leave the country with your children and not return, or like mine, they may be doing it for control.
So, what are the options if your ex won’t sign a passport application form for your child?
After you have exhausted all options (this means trying to talk to them and understand why they are worried, trying to persuade them, and mediation), there are only two things you can do: submit a B-9 form, and if that fails, get a court order.
I attempted mediation first, which unfortunately my ex did not agree to participate in. The next step was submitting a B-9 form. This is an Application for an Australian travel document: Child without full parental consent or Australian court order permitting issue of a travel document. This form must be submitted alongside a regular application form for a child. These passport applications without full consent take longer to process (generally six to eight weeks) and there is no guarantee that a child passport application without full consent will be approved.
In this form you need to state if you have tried to contact the other parent, if the child is subject to any court orders, child support arrangements, and outline any contact between your child and the other parent. You must also provide further information and attach evidence as is defined in subsection 11(2) of the Australian Passports Act 2005 and section 10 of the Australian Passports Determination 2015. It should be noted that unless there are extreme circumstances (such as your ex has passed away, is presumed missing or dead, is not contactable by you and the Minister, or is medically incapable of providing consent), it is unlikely that this application will be granted. In fact, assume it won’t be.
For me, submitting a B-9 form for my daughter was not successful, so the next step was to get a Court Order for a passport. From my own personal experience, this is usually a long legal process. For me, it took 2 years. It can also be very expensive. You need to get legal advice. If you proceed with a lawyer, you may have high legal fees, and there are also court costs involved (these can exceed $6000). You can represent yourself in court, however you will still have court costs. Holding certain Government concession cards (or demonstrating financial hardship) mean you MAY be eligible for a reduced fee or an exemption of fees.
If you are very lucky, your ex’s lawyer will talk sense into them and you can hopefully avoid going to court. If not, you will have to go to court.
The good news is, that unless your ex has an extremely good reason why your child should not have a passport (such as if there is a risk that the other parent flees the country with the child), the court will usually agree that it is a human right for your child to have a passport. In my case, the Judge also stated that my daughter not having a passport was also preventing my freedom.
I won’t lie, it is a long, laborious, expensive, horrible, draining process. I also found it humiliating being in court, and having strangers sit in on private arguments and disagreements with my ex. Be prepared for hearing your ex tell lies about you, and making you out to be a horrible parent. For me, that day was one of the worst in my whole single mum life. Although we were in court for other parenting matters too.
On top of that, it doesn’t end there. So once I got the court orders stating that my ex had to sign for both passport applications, did it mean he was just going to sign them? No. Of course not. So even though he was court ordered to sign the forms, he refused. I spoke to my lawyer assuming I could just roll into the court and get a register of the court to sign off in his behalf. Was it that easy? No. I had to prove that he refused to sign by writing yet another affidavit and incorporating all my further attempts to get him to sign, and then go back to the court for another hearing.
A week before we were due back in court, my ex decided he would now sign the papers. Finally! And two months later, he did.
Was it worth it? Absolutely. So far I have only taken my daughter to Fiji (you can read the holiday diary here), but I can’t wait to take her all over the world, and introduce her to different cultures as she grows up.