Traveling outside the U.S. with a child after divorce

Just because a family arrangement has changed doesn’t mean vacations are a thing of the past. Oftentimes, one parent may want to take a long trip with their child or children – potentially even to a foreign country. After divorce however, doing so may not be as straightforward as it once was.

So, when can a parent take a child out of the country following divorce? And are there any restrictions? These questions have a few answers.

First: Check the divorce agreement

A key document in this scenario is your divorce or custody agreement. In many cases there will be certain stipulations for travel written into the agreement.

For example, the document may specify there are no travel restrictions of any kind for either parent, as long as the trip falls within their predetermined custodial time. Or, maybe the agreement includes some limits, such as requiring signed permission from the non-traveling parent before a child can leave the country.

Whatever is in the divorce or custody agreement will likely be what a parent must adhere to. However, a parent that wants to change the agreement might be able to petition the court to get a modification.

Other possible requirements

There are other potential legal requirements to keep in mind. For example, in most all cases, any child under the age of 16 must have written permission from both parents to obtain a passport. If one parent is not comfortable with the child leaving the country, they could choose to limit the other parent’s options by refusing to offer their signature.

A parent concerned about their former spouse traveling with a child could also ask the court to impose certain restrictions. That might include:

  • Outright prohibiting any international travel with the child
  • Requiring court approval before a parent takes the child out of their home state
  • Having a neutral third party hold the child’s passport
  • Specifying clear start and end dates

Not only is this a complex area of the law, it’s an emotionally challenging ordeal for everyone involved. The simplest way to resolve disputes over travel is by speaking openly and respectfully to a former spouse. That does not always work, however, and in those cases it may be wise to find an attorney that can help guide you through the possible options.

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