Child custody agreements for divorced parents are often complex and laden with many restrictions. The situation can become very complicated when a parent wishes to take their child out of the country for any period of time. Custodial parents, non-custodial parents, parents with shared custody, and those with partial custody will need to plan ahead to ensure that their child travels legally and in compliance with court ordered custody arrangements.
Requirements for International Travel
For all international travel, parents and children are required to have current passports. If the child in question has parents that share shared custody, both parents are required to sign the passport. Children over 16 years of age can sign for themselves, but parental consent is still necessary.
State laws on international travel vary. Some states require consent by both parents, regardless of the child’s age before legal adulthood. If a child already has a passport, particularly one that was obtained before child custody arrangements were made, a parent can petition the court to deny the passport if they fear their ex-spouse could flee the country with their marital children.
Travel plans that involve a third party, such as a grandparent or relative, may also face restrictions if the adult was not granted travel rights in the initial child custody agreement. The parent can again petition the court for an amendment, but the issue becomes even more complicated when a parent must approve a third-party escort out of the country.
It is important that if you are concerned about your child travelling overseas that this concern be raised either at trial, or when negotiating a marital settlement agreement, that these issues be raised at that time. Either the agreement or a court order can place restrictions on travel by minors.
Complications of Traveling Abroad with Children Post Divorce
It is not uncommon for parents of divorce to face problems with child custody issues, especially if one parent wants to take their child out of the state or out of the country for vacation or an extended visit. Parents must be careful to comply with the stipulations of their child custody agreement, and with the state and federal laws concerning international travel with children of divorce.
If the non-custodial parent wants to take their child on a trip overseas, they will, in most cases, have to obtain consent from the custodial parent. In the case of joint or shared custody, federal law mandates that both parents must consent to the international travel by being physically present to sign the child’s passport, or to provide a letter of consent if they cannot be present.
If the custodial parent or one parent in a shared custody situation refuses to give their consent or tries to block the passport of the child, the non-custodial parent can petition the court to intervene. This may take some time as the family court system is often overwhelmed with pending cases. It is wise for any parent planning international travel to begin the process of gaining consent from their ex-spouse as far in advance as possible.
The U.S. Department of State recommends that all divorced parents and parents who are traveling without their spouse obtain a letter of consent for international travel before departure. A customs official who questions consent may delay or refuse departure if the sole parent traveling with the child does not have this documentation.
Towson Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Provide Legal Counsel for Divorced Parents With Questions About Overseas Travel
If you are a divorced parent facing a child custody issue, contact the Towson child custody lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC at 443-589-0150, or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today. From our offices in Towson and Hunt Valley, we assist clients in Baltimore, Bel Air, Columbia, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks, Parkton, Pikesville and throughout Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County, Maryland.