Summer travel plans can become complicated and stressful for divorced parents sharing time with their children. These tips can help parents keep things simple and avoid conflict. 

Follow your custody agreement and/or custody order. 

If you have a custody agreement and/or a court order regarding custody of your kids, it most likely includes provisions regarding the time each parent is allotted for summer vacation, notwithstanding the regular schedule. Frequently, agreements and more detailed court orders also include provisions regarding how and when the parents are to notify each other regarding chosen vacation times, whether travel itineraries are to be shared, and sometimes even whether the children are allowed to travel outside of the region or country. If you have an agreement or a court order that addresses summer vacations, and any details related to summer vacations, it is extremely important that you follow those provisions. Failing to do so could result in scheduling difficulties, missing your vacation time altogether or even court intervention on the issue.

What if you don’t have an agreement or order that addresses summer vacation?

Make sure you begin negotiating summer plans well in advance of the desired travel dates. If you do not have a written agreement or court order that deals with the logistics of summer travel, then you and the other parent will need to agree on those logistics. Giving yourself plenty of lead time will allow you the opportunity to seek counsel, or even court intervention, if necessary. And if you and the other parent are able to agree, make sure you have that agreement confirmed in writing.

What documents should you bring on your trip?

  • If you have a written agreement regarding the planned travel, a custody agreement, and/or a court custody order, always bring copies of those documents along with you. 
  • It is also recommended that you bring a parental travel consent form, which is a statement signed and notarized by the non-traveling parent giving consent for the children to travel with the traveling parent. There is no official form, so you will have to create your own. It should include each child’s name, the traveling parent’s/companion’s name, where they are traveling, a statement of the non-traveling parent’s permission, as well as both parents’ names and contact information. Not all international destinations require such forms, but it is a good practice to bring one just in case. Such a form is also recommended if the children are traveling with anyone other than a parent. 
  • If you are traveling abroad, the children will need passports. (This includes flying into Canada and Mexico, but not necessarily traveling by land or sea into either.) The children and both parents must appear in person to apply for each child’s passport. If only one parent can be present, the second parent must submit a notarized statement of consent. More information on the passport application process can be found on the U.S. Department of State’s website. Plan ahead, as a passport can take more than a month to obtain if the parents are not in agreement with procuring one. 
  • You should always bring copies of each child’s birth certificate on trips, and many countries require this. If your children are adopted, or you have legal guardianship over a minor, you should bring copies of all documents indicating your relationship to the child and authority to travel with him or her. 
  • Travel requirements vary by country. Always check with the U.S. Department of State, as well as the specific destination country’s consular, to ensure you and your children have the correct documentation for travel. 

What if you think the other parent is attempting to remove your children from the U.S. without your permission, using the guise of a summer vacation?

You have several tools available to you if you believe the other parent may be trying to leave the country with your children without your permission, contrary to an agreement or court order, or with the intent to kidnap or abduct them. First and foremost, you should contact an attorney, who can advise you on next steps. Depending on the situation and timing, you also may be able to ask a court to intervene and to affirmatively prohibit the other parent from traveling outside of the jurisdiction, or to another country, with the minor children.

If your children do not yet have U.S. passports, you can also enroll them (if they are under the age of 18 and U.S. citizens) in the Department of State’s Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program. Doing so allows the Department of State to contact you to verify whether you have consented to the issuance of a passport for the child in the event an application is made unilaterally by the other parent. Finally, if you believe a parental kidnapping or abduction is underway, you should immediately contact the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues for emergency assistance at 1-888-407-4747.

If we can assist you with any issues related to summer travel with your children that isn’t addressed here, or any family law matter, please contact one of the attorneys in our family law department at 301-340-2020.  

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