After a rocky divorce, a trip overseas might be just what your kids need to get back on their feet and spend some quality time with one of their parents. Unfortunately, international travel after a divorce can be complicated. With so many cases of parent kidnapping to non-extradition countries on the books, it's important to understand the ins and outs of international travel rules for minors. Here are three big things you need to understand before your trip.
Check Custody Rules
As you're planning an international trip with your child, the first thing you should do is consult the custody agreement between you and your ex. Custody laws and norms vary widely by state, with some states including automatic rules about international travel designed to prevent parental kidnappings. If your custody agreement prohibits international travel, you'll have to ask the judge to amend it before you can take the trip. If it makes no prohibition, you should have no trouble as long as your trip falls within the timeframe of your normal custody rights. For example, if you want to take your son to Mexico over summer when you'd have custody of him anyway, it shouldn't present difficulties.
Applying for a Passport
If your child doesn't already have a passport, obtaining one will require the consent of your ex. The State Department requires that both of a child's parents be present to file an application for a passport. The only exceptions to this rule are when one parent is dead, declared incompetent by a court, or excluded from custody by a court. If your ex is alive, competent and willing to help you but simply can't make it to the application site, he or she can submit a notarized copy of Form DS-3053, which waives the parental consent requirement.
The upshot of all this is that if your child doesn't already have a passport, you're probably going to need your ex's help to get one. It is possible to get a court to order your ex to consent to a passport application, but it's difficult.
Reassure the Ex
Even if you already have your child's passport in hand, you should keep your ex informed about your travel plans and reassure both them and the court that you have no intent of fleeing the country. There are a few ways to demonstrate you harbor no ill will. First, book all your flights in advance on non-refundable tickets when possible. This shows you plan on sticking to your itinerary. Second, notify the State Department about where you're going and where you'll be staying. That shows you have nothing to hide. Finally, if your ex is really worried, offer to post a Ne Exeat bond. This is basically an insurance policy that costs you big if you fail to keep up your end of the bargain.
If all this seems overwhelming, talk to a family lawyer at Ivy Law Group PLLC. They'll be able to sort out the details so you can enjoy your trip.