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Traveling Abroad with Children After Divorce: Ex Says No, What Do You Do?

Mother and son hiking in the mountains in autumn.

Co-parenting after a divorce can present many challenges, from weekly custody exchanges to navigating the holidays to communicating with the kids during non-custodial time. One of the thorniest problems parents find themselves dealing with occurs when one parent wants to take the children out of the country but the other parent objects. What happens next? Read on as we explore this issue below. If you have questions or need help with a custody matter, divorce, or any family law issue in Union, Middlesex, or Essex County, contact the Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro to share your concerns with an experienced and dedicated Union, New Jersey, family law attorney.

The General Rule: Mutual Consent

In New Jersey, as in many other states, divorced parents are generally required to get mutual consent for international travel with their children. This rule holds true regardless of which parent has primary custody. Typically, both parents must sign a permission form, or at least a written agreement, outlining the travel details. The intended destination country might require some form of proof before allowing a minor into the country with only one parent, such as a copy of the custody order or a letter of authorization signed by the other parent.

Role of the Primary Custodial Parent

Although mutual consent is usually necessary, the position of the primary custodial parent can carry significant weight in the court’s view. Courts may lean toward honoring the primary custodial parent’s travel plans, as they are generally responsible for the day-to-day well-being of the child. However, it’s essential to remember that the best interest of the child is always the court’s primary concern. If the non-custodial parent can present a strong case for why international travel may not be in the child’s best interest, the court could prohibit the trip.

Objections from the Non-Custodial Parent

In New Jersey, the non-custodial parent has the right to object to international travel plans involving their children. If the parents cannot reach an agreement, the objecting parent can file an emergency motion with the court to stop the travel plans temporarily. The court will then schedule a hearing to determine whether the trip can proceed.

Can One Parent Block a Child’s Passport?

In general, both parents’ consent is usually required to obtain a passport for a minor. In the absence of this joint consent, one parent can indeed block the other from obtaining a passport for the child. By enrolling in the Department of State’s Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program, a parent can be contacted whenever the other parent applies for a passport for the child and have the opportunity to confirm or deny parental consent. Outside of this program, a parent could always to go court to stop the travel. Alternatively, the court can order the issuance of a passport for the child even if one parent objects, but this typically occurs only under special circumstances.

Important Factors for Court Consideration

When evaluating the travel plans, the court takes multiple factors into account:

  1. The Custody Order: As with any child custody issue, the first place courts will turn to is the custody agreement. A comprehensive parenting plan will address the issue of international travel, especially if it is an issue that is likely to come up post-divorce. Many apparent disputes can be resolved by looking at what has already been decided by the parents and the courts and enforcing the terms of that order.

  2. The Child’s Relationship with Both Parents: A strong bond with both parents can be an influential factor.

  3. Safety Concerns: The court will assess the safety level of the planned destination, especially if the non-custodial parent raises specific safety issues.

  4. Duration of the Trip: Extended trips that significantly disrupt the child’s routine or schooling can be a red flag.

  5. Motives of the Parents: If the court suspects that the traveling parent has ulterior motives, like relocating the child permanently, it may deny the travel request.

Consult a Family Law Attorney for Help With International Travel Issues

Navigating international travel post-divorce can be complex and stressful. The Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro in Union, New Jersey, serves families in Union, Middlesex, and Essex counties and can provide the legal guidance you need for these and other post-divorce issues. If you have questions about international travel or other custody issues, contact our firm to discuss your options and ensure that you’re making decisions in the best interest of your children.

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