We often see clients who have concerns about allowing their children to travel internationally with the child’s other parent. These concerns are particularly palpable when the other parent is not a U.S. citizen or when the children have dual citizenship. These clients are sometimes fearful that the other parent, if allowed to travel abroad with the children, may abduct the children to a foreign country and refuse to return to the United States. Courts will sometimes intervene to prohibit a parent from travelling internationally with a child to a location that is considered particularly unsafe, or if the Court determines that the risk of parental abduction is too great; however, those situations tend to be on the extreme end of the spectrum. In most cases, it is likely not realistic to expect that the other parent will be barred from all international travel with your children until they reach the age of majority, particularly if your children have family and cultural ties to other countries. That said, there are certain checks you can put in place to safeguard your children and protect against international parental abduction.
1. Address international travel in your decree. If you have concerns about international travel, you should establish a protocol in your decree or shared parenting plan. You should address who will have possession of the children’s passports when they are not travelling, determine when they will be exchanged with the travelling parent, and when they will be returned. You should also address how and when the passports will be renewed. You can negotiate to include provisions about obtaining the consent of the other parent prior to any international travel, and requiring that a consent to travel letter be executed. You and your co-parent may also agree to impose age limitations on international travel, or limits on where the child will be permitted to travel.
2. Enroll in the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program. If your child is a U.S. citizen and you are concerned that the other parent may attempt to obtain a passport for your child without your consent, you can enroll in the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program through the U.S. Department of State. Enrolling your child in this program will allow you to be notified in the event that an application for a passport for your child is submitted and will trigger the Department of State to take extra measures to verify parental consent before issuing the passport. You can find a link for more information about this program below.
3. Contact the consulate. If your child is not a U.S. citizen or has dual citizenship, contact the consulate of their country of citizenship to request verification of the issuance of any passports to your child from that country. If a passport has been issued and it is not in your possession. If a passport that is not in your possession has been issued, and you are concerned the other parent may attempt to abduct the child, contact the Department of State Office of Children’s Issues Prevention Branch to develop a departure prevention plan for your child.
4. Limit international travel to Hague signatory countries. It should obviously be your priority to prevent parental abduction from taking place before it happens, but should such an unfortunate circumstance arise, you will have a much greater chance of success in securing the return of your child if they have been taken to a country that is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The U.S. is a signatory to this Convention, which is an international agreement between signatory countries to cooperate in the return of abducted children to their country of habitual residence. This means that should your child be taken out of the U.S. and not returned in violation of your parenting orders, if that country is a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, that country will honor and enforce your U.S. parenting order and assist in facilitating the expedient return of your child. Do not consent to your children to travel to countries that are not signatories to this Hague Convention. Countries that are not signatories have no obligation to honor the parenting orders from a foreign jurisdiction, and you will face many more obstacles in securing the return of your child. You can find a list of signatory countries by following the link below.
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– Information about the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act https://travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/preventing/InformationabouttheSeanandDavidGoldmanInternationalChildAbductionPreventionandReturnAct.html
-Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction https://www.hcch.net/en/instruments/conventions/status-table/?cid=24
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