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Including travel restrictions in your custody agreement

One of the many advantages of living in Hawaii is that we can fly to New Zealand and Australia in about the same length of time it takes to get to the East Coast of the U.S. If you see international travel with your kids in your future after you divorce, it’s wise to include provisions in your custody agreement for international as well as inter island and out-of-state travel.

Let’s assume here that you’re not worried that your co-parent will kidnap the children and move to another country with them. You just want to know when they plan to take the kids more than a specified distance and maybe be required to approve the trip. (You should be expected to do the same if you want to travel with your children.)

You can determine how far each parent is allowed to travel with a child without getting the other parent’s written permission. You can also require, at least for longer travel, that the parent who will be traveling obtain a consent to travel letter signed by the other parent that provides their itinerary, contact information and other details. It’s always wise to keep that with you on your travels – even if you’re not flying – to present to authorities in case you’re asked.

What about passports?

If your kids don’t yet have U.S. passports, you should know that both parents (if they share custody) must provide consent for a child under 16 to get a passport. From 16 to 18, they only need one parent’s consent. You can put in a request with the U.S. Department of State to be notified if an application is filed for a passport for your minor child through the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP).

If your children already have passports, there’s little you can do to stop your co-parent from taking the child out of the country if they have shared custody. That doesn’t mean the court won’t have something to say about it when they return.

The best way to prevent your co-parent from going behind your back may be to negotiate travel requirements that work for both of you – and most importantly, for your children. Having experienced legal guidance can help.


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