Can you prevent your co-parent from taking your child abroad?

Published on
May 8, 2023

If you or your spouse (or both of you) have family living outside the U.S., you’ll likely need to address international travel in your custody agreement as you divorce. Even if you don’t have loved ones in another country, if you want the option of taking your child with you if you travel for business or vacation, it’s best to work this out now rather than wait until you have your plane tickets purchased.It's not uncommon for people to worry that their co-parent could take their child out of the country without informing them or even take them and not return them to the U.S. – especially if they have loved ones or other ties to another country. These situations are rare, but they do happen.How can you protect your parental rights while still allowing your child to visit family or just have the opportunity to travel abroad?

Does your child have a U.S. passport?

If your child already has a U.S. passport, the government (namely the State Department) doesn’t have the authority to prevent them from traveling outside the country. You’ll need to rely on restrictions in your custody agreement. However, if you don’t have a valid reason why your co-parent shouldn’t travel with your child out of the country, they probably won’t be denied the right to do that.If your child doesn’t have a passport, they need both parents’ approval to get one (if they share custody) as long as they’re under 16. Note that children under 16 don’t need a passport to travel to Canada -- only proof of U.S. citizenship.You certainly want to protect your child, and you have a right to know if your co-parent plans to travel outside the U.S. with them. However, in most cases, it’s best when parents can work together on a custody agreement that allows them both to travel with their child while keeping the other parent informed. Of course, every situation is unique. Having sound legal guidance can help you work towards what’s best for your child.

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