With summer break around the corner, a lot of families are making vacation plans. For most families post-divorce, international travel is not of concern. Most parenting plans in Florida contain a standard provision regarding out-of-state and foreign travel. This provision usually allows either parent to travel out-of-state or internationally provided sufficient notice and a detail itinerary is provided to the non-traveling parent.
However, in some cases, there may be an issue with international travel. This may arise whenever there is a concern about the safety of the country of destination or if there is a concern of parental child abduction. A family court judge has the authority to order, upon request, that one parent surrender possession of a child’s passport. A family court judge also has the authority to order that a parent who is objecting to a child’s international travel must provide consent.
The first step to figuring out if you can travel with your child internationally is reviewing your divorce documents. If your final judgment or parenting plan permits international travel, you should be okay. If the final judgment or parenting plan does not permit international travel or is silent on the issue, you may proceed with filing a supplemental petition to modify the final judgment or file a motion with the court, requesting that the judge authorize international travel.
Whether your divorce documents permit international travel or not, the next step is obtaining the necessary travel documents, including a passport for your child. In the U.S., both parents must appear in person with the minor child when applying for a U.S. passport for a child under the age of 16. If one parent cannot attend, he/she can give written permission by signing a sworn statement (Form DS-3053 – “Statement of Consent”). This may become an issue if the non-traveling parent refuses to consent to the passport. If so, you can file a motion with the court for an order, requiring the non-traveling parent to sign the consent. A family law judge has discretion to deny such a request if the objecting parent can convince the judge that the traveling parent is a flight risk. Factors that the judge would take into consideration when making such a determination includes, among other things, the traveling parent’s ties to the U.S., the traveling parent’s citizenship status, and if the destination country is a signatory to The Hague Convention.
Finally, even if the both parents agree on international travel, it is a good idea to obtain a signed parental permission form from the non-traveling parent. Due to increasing instances of child abduction in international custody cases and human trafficking, the traveling parent may be required to show proof of his or her relationship to the child to an immigration officer, airline representative, or travel company. If your last name is different than that of your child’s, it may also be helpful to bring the child’s birth certificate to show your legal relationship to your child.