If this will be the first summer since your separation or divorce, you want to ensure that any plans you have to travel outside the state or the country with your children won’t cause problems. That means being certain they don’t violate any terms of your custody agreement. It also means having thorough, clear communication with your co-parent.
If you have shared custody of your children, you likely included language in your custody agreement and parenting plan about how far each parent can take the children without the other parent’s written permission. Sometimes, this is a specific number of miles, but often permission is required only for out-of-state travel or travel outside the U.S.
When do you need a travel consent letter?
If written permission is required, you need to draw up a travel consent letter for your co-parent to sign. This is a good idea even if you haven’t finalized your custody agreement yet just to make sure there are no miscommunications. Your family law attorney can help you draft the letter to make sure that all the necessary information is included and that it’s properly signed and witnessed.
Once you have permission to travel with your children, it’s a good idea to bring plenty of documentation with you, especially if you’re crossing state lines. This can include copies of the consent letter and your children’s birth certificates. If your children’s last names aren’t the same as yours, it’s a good idea to carry some type of documentation that proves your relationship.
What if you want to travel abroad?
For a child under 16 to get a passport, both parents (assuming that they share custody) must give their written consent. If a child already has a passport and a parent is concerned about their co-parent taking them abroad without their permission, they can ask the court to order the passport to be surrendered.
What if your co-parent won’t provide the consent you need to travel with your children to your intended destination? If you believe the trip is reasonable and in your kids’ best interests, you may be able to get a judge to consent to a change in the terms of your custody agreement. Whatever you do, don’t violate the terms of your custody order. You could find yourself charged with kidnapping. It’s best to talk over the situation with your family law attorney.