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Traveling Abroad with Your Kids? If You Share Custody, Check These 3 Items Off Your To-Do List to Ensure Those Passports Get Stamped

With summer in full swing, COVID travel restrictions loosening, and the increasing strength of the US dollar, many parents might be planning a big international trip with their child(ren). If you are in that boat (or plane), eager to get away from home and explore life outside the United States, and you share some form of custody with the other parent of your child(ren), there are special considerations you may need to address before taking your child(ren) on your trip with you.

There are several things to consider when traveling abroad, notwithstanding the provisions of your custody agreement or order, so below are a few tips on what you should be aware of when looking to travel internationally with your child(ren) in a shared custody situation.

Check Your Custody Order

While seemingly obvious, if you have already determined your custodial arrangement by written agreement or court order, make sure to read it over carefully to review any provisions pertaining to travel. Many parents may overlook what they have outlined in their custody agreements when it comes to vacation clauses. In other cases, some separated parents may have an informal custody arrangement or decide not to include specific language regarding travel. In any case, it is important to get some form of written consent for travel plans, especially when it comes to traveling internationally, since, without written consent or court approval to protect yourself, you could find yourself in a costly and stressful legal dispute if the other parent objects.

Regardless of whether there is language in your custody order regarding international travel, it is also important to respect what has been outlined when it comes to your parenting time. If your trip extends longer than your established parenting time, you should obtain written consent from the other parent confirming their permission for you to have the extended time, or else they could petition a court to have the child(ren) returned.

Check International Travel Restrictions When Traveling with Children

Although the United States does not have existing procedures in place to monitor outbound overseas travel, the majority of other countries do. While leaving the country with your child(ren) is relatively simple, entering another country typically requires authorization. It is necessary to prove your child(ren)’s identification and present papers demonstrating your authority before leaving the nation you have visited with your child(ren). Basically, it demonstrates that the child(ren)’s parents have approved the vacation plans.

There are relatively few circumstances in which you could lawfully take your child(ren) out of the country without the other parent’s permission. Parents who have sole custody of the child(ren) are permitted to travel abroad with their child(ren) without the consent of the child(ren)’s other parent. However, in order to receive the child(ren)’s passport, the parent with sole custody must present the court-ordered custody agreement. These limitations were put in place to decrease parental kidnapping abroad and are strictly enforced.

Secure Proper Documentation

Assuming the trip has been approved by both parents, it is then time to assemble the proper paperwork. Along with passports, you should also bring the previously mentioned consent form. While the United States does not have a formal parental consent form for international travel, there are certain things that should be included in any statement of consent that is put together, including:

  • Names of the child(ren) and parent(s) traveling;
  • Dates of birth for all travelers;
  • Passport numbers for all travelers;
  • When and where the group is traveling;
  • Contact information for the non-traveling parent; and
  • Signatures from both parties.

Along with signing these forms, they should also be notarized. The U.S Customs and Border Patrol outlines more information regarding these forms. However, if you need assistance, an experienced family law attorney can guide you with filling out these forms and answering any questions you may have.

What if You Do Not Want Your Children to Leave the Country?

It is not uncommon for some parents to have reservations about their child(ren) traveling with their other parent, even if they are on good terms. Along with specifying restrictions on international travel in your custody order, there are a few other scenarios where you can prevent your other parent from taking your child(ren) on a trip abroad.

Generally, both parents have to give consent for a minor to obtain a passport if there is some form of split custody. This means that your simple refusal can stop the process. Or if the child(ren) does have a passport, you can request to have it surrendered to the court. Should the passport be surrendered to the court, the traveling parent would then have to go through a hearing to request the passport, giving you time to provide evidence on why it is unsafe or improper for your child(ren) to travel.

Double Check Your Travel Plans Today

It is common for many parents to consider formalizing, modifying, or gaining clarity regarding their custody arrangements around the summertime when their child(ren) is off from school and they are looking to travel. At Tully Rinckey, our New York City family and matrimonial law attorneys have experience dealing with these types of custody matters and are up to date on the ever-changing travel guidelines. Knowing your rights regarding traveling with your child(ren) and getting the required paperwork in order can be the difference between having to cancel a trip, having it cut short, or having that dream vacation. Bon voyage!

Michael Liptrot is senior counsel in Tully Rinckey PLLC’s Manhattan office, where he focuses his practice on family and matrimonial law. For close to a decade, Michael has practiced family law across New York City, including the five boroughs, the lower Hudson Valley area, and New Jersey. Throughout his time practicing, Michael has gained a vast amount of experience in family and matrimonial law, with specific experience in divorce, custody, child support, family offense, neglect/abuse, guardianship, and SIJS (Special Immigrant Juvenile Status) matters. He can be reached at info@tullylegal.com or at (888)-529-4543.

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