Sometimes, it is necessary to travel out-of-state with your child. Perhaps you are visiting relatives, taking a vacation, or relocating for your job. However, after a divorce, you may feel overwhelmed unless you make all the necessary preparations.
The most important part of traveling out-of-state with your child after your divorce is to get permission from your child’s other parent and/or legal guardians.
Can I Travel Out-of-State or Abroad with My Child?
Your custody order and/or parenting plan should clearly outline the way you should handle travelling with your child. Depending on the laws of your state, some courts do not require you to get permission from your child’s other parent for out-of-state travel.
However, in some states, a court order may contain the requirements you must meet to travel out-of-state or internationally with your child.
If your court order does not state that written consent is required to travel with your child, you should get permission anyway. A record of the agreement may be critical in any disagreements or disputes that come up later.
If you are not sure whether there are any requirements in your order, you should consult a knowledgeable family court attorney in your area before you make any travel plans out-of-state with your child.
What Kind of Documentation Do I Need from My Child’s Co-Parent?
Once you have determined what type of documentation you need for your trip, you should create a document with all the relevant information. While there are no strict guidelines about what to include, the documentation should generally answer these questions:
- Who is traveling with your child?
- Who are your child’s legal guardians? List the full legal names of everyone who requires permission.
- How can you contact your co-parent or your child’s other legal guardians? Provide a telephone number and any secondary form of contact information for each person.
- What are you asking permission for? Make sure your letter clearly states whether the permission is to travel out-of-state or abroad.
- Where are you taking your child? Clearly outline your travel plans.
- When are you traveling? Give the complete itinerary for your trip.
You and the co-parent of your child should sign this document in the presence of a notary public.
What if My Child’s Co-Parent and I Cannot Agree on Travel Plans?
If permission to travel with your child out-of-state or internationally is required by a court order, you should not disregard this requirement and travel without it.
If you do, you could be found in contempt of court, and you could face both criminal and civil penalties. If you travel internationally with your child without obtaining the proper permission, it could be considered an international kidnapping.
The goal of any custody agreement is to maintain the best interest of your child. If you move out-of-state, it could complicate your joint custody agreement. As a result, you may need court approval to move.
If you and your co-parent cannot agree on a solution, the court will try to modify the custody agreement in a way that is in the best interest of your child.
What About International Vacations?
Traveling internationally with your child can be a bit complicated if you and your child’s other parent do not agree with the travel plans.
The United States does not have a system in place to monitor outbound international travel, but the majority of other countries do. Leaving the United States with your child is easy, but entering another country with your child may be difficult, as most countries require permission.
Additionally, many other countries require that you prove your child’s identity and provide documentation that proves you have permission to do so. Only a handful of cases allow you to legally leave the country with your child without the consent of your child’s other parent—even when you are the custodial parent.
What is in Your Custody Agreement?
Sometimes, court-approved custody agreements will address travel with your child. This situation may be true if you have primary custody or if you share custody with your child’s other parent.
Vacation clauses in custody agreements could set limits on what you can and cannot do, or they could give you instructions regarding notice of travel. If your child’s other permission does not give their permission, you would have to seek permission from the court to legally take your child out-of-state.
What if I Want to Move Out-of-State with My Child?
Perhaps you and your child’s other parent may maintain both joint legal and physical custody. If so, it could be difficult to maintain joint physical custody if you decide to move out-of-state.
Do I Need to Get the Court’s Permission to Move Out-of-State with My Child?
If you want to move out-of-state with your child, you will probably have to obtain approval from the court that issued your original custody order. Perhaps you have a joint custody agreement with your child’s other parent, and you want to move out-of-state without bringing your child. If so, primary custody would most likely go to the other parent who remains in the first state.
What about Out-of-State Custody Agreements?
If you have an out-of-state custody agreement, it may designate that one parent is your child’s sole custodian and give visitation rights to the out-of-state parent. The court could pursue alternative methods as part of any new custody agreement. For instance, it could incorporate “virtual visitation” or electronic communication between your child and the out-of-state parent.
What if My Non-Moving Co-Parent Does Not Approve of Our Child Moving Out-of-State?
If your co-parent does not agree to the move, you must go to court and petition the judge for a court order that allows you to move with your child. The court will schedule a hearing and give both you and the non-consenting parent a chance to voice your opinions and concerns. You must be able to show that moving your child out-of-state is in the best interest of your child.
When considering what your child’s best interest is, the court will look at different factors, including the wishes of the child, any special needs your child may have, the age of your child, you and your co-parent’s health, and the way your child may adjust to a new location and school.
The court will also consider your reason for moving. Are there economic reasons, such as a new job, better cost of living, or closer proximity to your family.
What if the Court Does Not Approve My Move?
If the judge does not approve your move, you can still move. You just cannot take your child with you.
If you move out-of-state without the court’s approval and against the co-parent’s wishes, you could be facing court sanctions, fines, jail time, and an amended custody agreement that is in favor of the non-moving parent.
Custody agreements can be complicated, and child custody laws vary from state to state. If you plan on moving out-of-state, you should speak to a qualified family law attorney, in order to make sure your parental rights are protected.
If you plan on traveling with your child out-of-state or internationally, always make sure you have the consent of your child’s other parent. Also confirm that you have that consent in a signed, notarized document, in order to prevent future complications and disputes.