Child Custody & International Travel — What Are Your Rights?

Co-parenting after a divorce or separation is tough at the best of times, but when your ex-partner wants to involve your child in situations you don’t feel comfortable with — like international travel — things become even more complex. You might feel helpless, but there’s a good chance you can exercise your rights to have a say.

Let’s unpack the legal side of this scenario, the nuances you may come across, and what you can do to assure your child’s safety if you have cause for concern.

What are your rights?

When trying to understand how child custody works for international travel, the biggest factor at play is the custody order in place after separating, which may specify how to approach the issue of travel. For instance, it might require the traveling parent to give notice or to obtain permission. Even if the parent pursuing international travel has sole custody, these clauses will continue to apply.

If permission is required, you may have the right to deny the other parent the right to travel with your child. If your agreement doesn’t contain any of these provisions, seek an amended custody order.

In this case (when the Order says nothing about travel and the other parent has sole custody), your rights are more limited — the parent would have the right to travel with the child by default, as long as they don’t violate the custody agreements (i.e., sticking to the agreed time period for one parent to be with a child). However, for a child to obtain a passport, both parents must give permission unless one parent has sole custody.

If your co-parent goes against this agreement and hasn’t applied for an extension or modification, you could apply for a court order against them for violation. If your co-parent goes against the custody order, contact the police.

Resolution through mediation 

It’s only natural that any situation related to your children is going to be an emotive issue, especially if you feel they’d be in danger by traveling outside the country. 

However, even if it’s tempting to take things straight to court, it’s best to turn to communication with the co-parent before the situation gets out of hand. This is usually better for the child as it minimizes drama, and it often leads to a better solution.

While it can be tough to communicate effectively with an ex-partner, mediation can help. This involves a trained, neutral mediator who gives both people a chance to speak and listen to each other in the hopes of reaching an agreement. This is less stressful and allows both people to work together rather than feeling they’re in competition. 

Stay calm and choose communication 

If you don’t want your co-parenting arrangement to turn nasty but you have cause for concern about your child traveling, consider mediation to get your point across and reach a resolution (if you’re also prepared to listen).

Donita King is a highly trained and skilled professional in this area, with a legal background and plenty of experience navigating co-parenting situations. If you’d like to know more about her services and what she can offer, contact her law office today.

Donita King

Ms. King is a member of the Virginia, Pennsylvania, and D.C. State Bars. She also serves as a University of Richmond School of Law Adjunct Professor of Mediation. She previously served on the Virginia Bar Association Joint ADR Council (2015 Chair), and served for several years on the Governor of Virginia’s Interagency Dispute Resolution Council. Ms. King currently serves as a board member of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board by appointment of the Virginia Supreme Court and has been active with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Women in Business as well. Se habla espanol.

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