Child Custody and Taking the Child Abroad

International travel is a wonderful way to expose children to new cultures and experiences. Having family living abroad is common, and in addition to new cultures, a parent may want to show a child their heritage. After a divorce, separation, or child custody case, knowing the required documentation for international travel is crucial before actually making your plans.

A passport is required for any United States citizen seeking to enter (or re-enter) the country. Requirements for applying for a passport vary depending on a child’s age. Any time a child is under the age of sixteen, applying for the child’s passport must be done in person. For a child, both parents must apply for the passport on the child’s behalf. The parents must also show proof of parentage, such as a birth certificate. Coordinating both parents to apply for a passport can be tricky after a divorce or separation. It is possible for only one parent to apply for a passport, if he or she can also produce one of several documents, including a notarized statement from the other parent giving consent or a court-order giving that parent sole custody.

If a parent uses a parenting plan for the purposes of obtaining a passport, the contents of that plan and the purposes stated by the court for allowing international travel may be considered when reviewing the application for the child’s passport. An objecting parent also has some protections under United States law. The objecting parent may submit a copy of a court order granting him or her sole or joint custody to the State Department, and thereafter the State Department will not grant a passport to the child in contravention of the court order. The purpose for this law is to help prevent kidnapping by a non-custodial parent.

Parents should also be aware that other countries may have their own requirements for parents traveling abroad. Before making your final arrangements, you will need to check the requirements for each country you will be travelling to or through to ensure you bring the correct documentation with you.

If you have questions about whether you can take your child abroad during or after a custody case, call us today at (253) 272-9459. We can help you review your case and the rules, and to obtain the necessary documents you need.