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Divorced Parents, Traveling, & Passports

For divorced parents, planning a trip with their child involves navigating legal requirements and permissions related to passports. Understanding these rules is crucial to ensuring a smooth travel experience for both of you.

Two Parents, Two Signatures 

When a co-parent wants to travel outside the U.S. with their child, both parents must sign for the passport if the child is under 14. This rule was set in 2001. Its purpose is to ensure that each parent agrees to allow their child to travel internationally. (We will elaborate on why in the next section.) This system is not meant to limit a parent’s time with their child but to ensure the child’s safety during custody disputes. If a parent refuses consent for a passport, they may need to  prove to a judge why international travel would harm the child. 

The Secretary of State issues passports to eligible U.S. citizens unless there is a valid legal reason to deny it. This means disputes over consent for a child’s passport are resolved in court. As always, the court focuses on the child’s best interest. Parents cannot use passport consent to interfere with the other’s legal rights without a court’s agreement. The goal is to balance parental rights with the child’s safety and well-being. A judge may order a parent to cooperate in securing a passport for their child if the court deems it necessary or may even order them to sign the passport paperwork at the courthouse.

The Safety Measures in Place

Legal actions can be taken if you have concerns about the other parent taking the child abroad if that travel could harm them or put them in danger. Courts can order the parent to surrender the child’s passport to prevent them from leaving the country. Your child’s name can also be placed in the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program. This alerts one parent if the other applies for the child’s passport. A court can authorize passport issuance or international travel over one parent’s objection in joint custody cases. 

Courts can require cooperation in passport applications and can decide on international travel issues. If there’s a fear of parental abduction, legal mechanisms like the Hague Treaty provide solutions for returning abducted children from countries that are treaty members. Not all countries are part of this treaty, so knowing which are can influence decisions on international travel. State courts play a crucial role in these matters, offering remedies to prevent unauthorized travel with the child. They can also order a parent to surrender the child’s passport, ensuring it is only used when appropriate. This measure helps reduce the risk of international abduction and ensures both parents have a say in their child’s travel.

If you’re having trouble obtaining a passport for your child or have concerns about international travel, discuss your specific situation with a family law attorney. They can guide you through these complex issues.

Legal Peace of Mind With Easterling Law 

Consider scheduling a consultation for more detailed advice tailored to your unique situation. Our team is here to support and guide you through the process, ensuring you and your child can enjoy travel opportunities without unnecessary legal hurdles.