While it’s fun to imagine simply hopping on a plane with your children and heading to an exotic tropical paradise or on an educational tour of the Roman Coliseum, if you co-parent with an ex-spouse, an international trip requires careful planning, even if you plan your family vacation during your scheduled parenting time.
Do Divorced Parents Have the Right to Travel Internationally With Children?
Most well-executed child custody agreements in Colorado include special provisions for international travel. Custody arrangements typically support the parent’s right to travel overseas with children if the trip falls within the parent’s custody or parenting time. For instance, most shared custody arrangements give parents alternating holidays and summer vacations with their children. The parent planning the international trip must give the other parent at least 30 days written notice prior to the departure date but does not require permission from the other parent unless the U.S. State Department has issued a level 3 or 4 travel advisory for the destination location.
For parents planning an international vacation or a visit to family overseas who find that their child custody agreement doesn’t address international travel, it’s important to file a motion to modify the custody order to include specific instructions in order to avoid potential problems with the other parent.
Obtaining a Passport For Children With Custody Orders
Like adults, children need passports for international travel. Federal law requires the signature of both parents on a child’s passport application as a means of preventing parental kidnapping overseas. There are very few exceptions to this law, including:
Showing proof of the other’s parent’s death
Showing a court order stating that the parent applying for the child’s passport has sole custody
Obtaining a court order allowing the parent to travel internationally with the child without the other parent’s consent
If both parents cannot apply together for a child’s passport, the parent applying can submit a signed permission form from the other parent giving their consent.
Once children have passports, regardless of which child paid for them, their passports must remain in the possession of the last parent who traveled with the children unless the other parent requests them in order to take the children on a trip.
If one parent wants to obtain passports for the children and the other parent refuses to cooperate, the parent seeking passports must file a motion with the court. Because the process of seeking a court order for obtaining passports without the other parent’s permission can be lengthy, the court recommends filing the motion at least 8 months before the planned departure date.
Can One Ex-Spouse Stop the Other From Traveling Overseas With Their Children?
Regardless of whether or not a parent is a child’s primary custodian, if a scheduled trip interferes with the non-custodial parent’s court-ordered visitation, that parent can file a motion to stop the other parent from taking the children. When planning any trip, whether domestic or international, the parent planning the trip must schedule it during their court-allotted parenting time.
A parent can also file a motion to prevent the other parent from traveling internationally with their children if they have evidence suggesting the parent plans to kidnap the children while overseas. A judge will carefully review the evidence before making a decision. Some foreign countries do not recognize U.S. child custody agreements, while others comply with these orders under the Hague Abduction Convention guidelines.