can you leave the country with child

Passports for Minors & Child Custody

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The news that your ex is planning to take the kids out of the country can be a scary proposition.  Knowing your rights and your legal options will help put your mind at ease and protect your relationship with your children.

There are two scenarios where your ex might be taking the kids out of the country: relocation or vacation. While there is some common ground between these two scenarios there are some distinct differences.  We will tackle the relocation situation first and then discuss the challenges posed by foreign vacations.

Can My Ex Take My Child Abroad?

In a relocation scenario, regardless if it is moving across town or out of the country, the residential parent is required to file a Notice of Intended Relocation and provide 60 days’ notice of the child’s intended relocation. Once this notice has been filed, the other parent has thirty days to object to the move by filing a Relocation Objection action.

The court will evaluate the intended relocation by using twelve different factors. Some of these factors include:

  • what is in the best interest of the child,
  • stability,
  • the reason for the move,
  • and community ties in both the new and the old locations.

It is important to note that in Washington State, the law favors the primary parent in relocations. This means that the court will assume that the child should be allowed to relocate with the primary parent and the non-primary parent will have to prove that there is reason to prevent the move.

Related Reading: An In-Depth Look At Parental Relocation

International Parental Relocation

There is a big difference between moving a few miles and relocating to another country. If your ex is considering an international move, the court is more likely to scrutinize the move and evaluate other factors that will affect the child.

International relocation can cause extreme disruption to a child’s life and can essentially eliminate one parent from the child’s life. This disruption and possible exclusion will improve the odds of preventing an international relocation.

The best way to protect your relationship with your kids is to establish an active role in their daily lives. Staying involved in your child’s day-to-day activities will establish strong bonds that a court will be hesitant to sever.

The more a parent is engaged with his kids the more likely the court will deem a relocation as disruptive or detrimental to the parent/child relationship.

Children’s Passports For Vacations

If your ex is looking to vacation in a foreign destination, she will first need to obtain a passport for your child.

Getting a passport for a minor will require:

  • Complete an application
  • Submit evidence of U.S. Citizenship
  • Submit evidence of the parental/guardian relationship
  • Present identification for both parents
  • Provide parental consent
  • Pay the fee
  • Submit passport photo

The key step for parents with shared custody is providing parental consent. Both parents must give consent to obtain a passport for a minor under the age of sixteen.

There are three ways that consent can be granted for a parent/guardian to obtain a passport for their minor child:

  • Both parents appear in person ad sign Form DS-11 in front of an Acceptance Agent
  • One parent appears in person with the minor, signs the DS-11 form in front of an Acceptance Agent, and submits the second parent’s notarized Statement of Consent (Form DS-3053).
  • If one parent has sole legal custody, that parent appears in person with the minor, signs the DS-11 Form in front of an Acceptance Agent, submits primary evidence of sole authority to apply for the child using one of the following:
    • Minor’s certified U.S. of foreign birth certificate that lists only the applying parent
    • Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth Abroad listing only the applying parent
    • Court order granting sole custody to the applying parent (unless the child’s travel is restricted by that order)
    • Adoption decree (if the applying parent is the sole adopting parent)
    • Court order specifically permitting applying parent’s or guardian’s travel with the child
    • Judicial declaration of incompetence of non-applying parent
    • Death certificate of non-applying parent

It is important to note that the written consent from the non-applying parent must be less than 3 months old to be accepted with a passport application for a minor under the age of 16.

Your ex can only obtain a passport for your minor child with your consent or court order.

You can find the forms and additional information about international travel with minors on the U.S. Department of State website.

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