can you leave the country with child

Passports, Custody, and International Travel

Goldberg JonesChild Custody, Featured Posts 1 Comment

The news that your ex plans to take the kids out of the country can be a scary proposition.  Knowing your rights, legal options, and passport requirements 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 the two scenarios share some common ground there are also distinct differences. We tackle the relocation situation first and then discuss the challenges posed by foreign vacations.

Can My Ex Move My Child Abroad?

In a relocation scenario, whether moving across town or out of the country, the law requires the residential parent to file a Notice of Intended Relocation. Additionally, they must give at least 60 days’ notice of the intended relocation.

Once filed, the other parent has 30 days to object to the move by filing a Relocation Objection action.

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

  • The best interests of the child.
  • Stability.
  • Reason for the move.
  • Community ties in both the new and the old locations.

It’s important to note that in Washington State, the law favors the primary parent in relocations. This means that the court assumes the child should be allowed to relocate with the primary parent and the non-primary parent will have to provide reasons 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 plans an international move, the court scrutinizes the move more closely and evaluates other factors that affect the child.

International relocation causes extreme disruption to a child’s life. In practice, this often essentially eliminates 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. Get and stay involved in your child’s day-to-day activities. This establishes strong bonds that the courts usually hesite to sever.

The involvement you have with your kids, the more likely the court will deem such a drastic relocation as disruptive or detrimental to the parent/child relationship.

Related Reading: What’s in a Parenting Plan? What Should Be?

Children’s Passports For Vacations

Relocation is one thing, but what about out-of-country vacations?

If your ex wants to vacation in a foreign destination, they first need to obtain a passport for your child.

Getting a passport for a minor requires:

  • A completed application.
  • Evidence of U.S. Citizenship.
  • Evidence of the parental/guardian relationship.
  • Identification for both parents.
  • Parental consent.
  • Fees.
  • A 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 16.

Related Reading: Dos and Don’ts to Protect Visitation and Custody

Obtaining a Passport for Minor Children

There are multiple ways to grant consent for a parent/guardian to obtain a passport for their minor child:

  • Both parents appear in person and 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, things change a bit. That parent appears in person with the minor, signs the DS-11 Form in front of an Acceptance Agent, and submits primary evidence of sole authority to apply for the child using one of the following:

    • The minor’s certified U.S. or 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 that order also restricts the child’s travel.)
    • Adoption decree. (If the applying parent is the sole adoptive parent.)
    • Court order that specifically permits the applying parent’s or guardian’s travel with the child.
    • Judicial declaration of incompetence of non-applying parent.
    • Death certificate of the non-applying parent.

It’s important to note that the written consent from the non-applying parent must be less than three 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 by court order.

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

Related ReadingGuardian Ad Litem: What You Need to Know

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