Can a Mom Take Their Child Out of the Country Without Dad's Permission?

Updated on April 04, 2012
K.H. asks from Arlington, TX
19 answers

the mother of my step son is threatening to take my 6 year old step son out of the country, even though it will interfere with father's day weekend. she is the custodial parent and my husband is the non custodial. last year he did sign a consent form for our son to get a passport. however, this year we do not want him traveling to the destination and it interferes with father's day weekend. his mom basically said that she doesn;t care and she will take him anyway or that she will take him and then send him back on that friday of our weekend (but how is a 6 year old going to from from south america to the texas by himself???).

we KNOW we need to speak to a lawyer about this but in the mean time we are curious what other people know. is this legal? does the noncustodial parent have any rights here? or can she take him out of the country regardless. i know that if it interferes with our weekend that we can report it as kidnapping.

and fyi: we already have one police report where she took him on our weekend and wouldnt answer our phone calls and wouldnt let us have him until several days after according to the court papers we were supposed to have him.

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answers from Atlanta on

I don't think she can take him out of the country without a signed consent form from the father. A friend of mine was taking her daughter to Ireland, and even though the father had NOTHING to do with either of them, they had to hunt him down and get him to sign a paper. The little girl was about 7 at the time.

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answers from Santa Barbara on

The only destinations I had trouble with was when I took my daughter to Vancouver, BC (pre 9/11 even). They really gave me issues passing through customs and then essentially put the words in my mouth "you are her only parent right"??? The second issue was when we have cruised out of the country - they required a notarized letter from my ex-husband to board the ship.

Good luck, I certainly wouldn't want the little guy flying from South America alone. Great idea to consult an attorney and get these things ironed out.

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answers from Seattle on

There is a lot of misinformation out there about international travel with kids. From my experience it is very easy. I take my daughter to Europe every year and have NEVER had or needed a "permission slip". I am married and DH of course is ok with us going - but it's not like anyone would know that looking at me right!? All I ever had with me was my DD's passport and DH needed to be PRESENT at the time we applied for it (not just a signature).

Also they sure as hell allow unaccompanied minors on international flights, my niece came to visit us this way. You simply pay a fee and the airline puts aside an attendant to guide the child through the airport and customs and during the flight a flight attendant makes sure they are comfortable. Younger children MUST travel non-stop (no layovers).

You need to get yourself to a lawyer ASAP and get a court order on this... they can make her give the child's passport to a guardian ad litem for the child, so neither parent has access to it unless there is agreement. But on the other hand if this is just for a vacation you may just consider switching around visiting weekend and letting him go and enjoy... sometimes NOT insisting on your right and instead promoting a compromise if better for everyone involved, especially the child.

Good luck!

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answers from Washington DC on

To the best of my knowledge - if the custodial parent has been given permission for passport - without limitations being put on it - yeah. It varies by state. If she has FULL LEGAL custody - she can do what she wants and take him where she wants.

Sounds like you guys need to go back to court and get things ironed out.

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answers from Honolulu on

**Here is a link for the forms used:
This is from a Canada travel site, but this is a typical form used. Like the one my Husband had to have ON him, when traveling with my daughter out of the country.

**Also, there are different types of "child custody." So, know that and research it. So that you know what is or is not allowed.

**What is a Custodial Parent?:

And, hope the Mom is not going to flee and kidnap her/his kid.... and return.

Call the airlines.
And stop it.

Can you take her off, of being Custodial Parent?
She seems not to care about anything having to do with your step son.

Typically, when my daughter traveled out of country with my Husband, per the Airlines and our Travel Agent, we had to get a Notarized, "letter of authorization" Consent to Travel form (which I got from online. Research it). And then my Husband had to carry that with him while traveling. The Travel Agent said it is required. When a child is traveling with 1 parent.

Here is further info:

Also, wow... it is really in bad judgement, to send the child back home... alone.... and on international travel.
He is only 6 years old.
That is scary.

DOCUMENT everything, the Mom is doing, or not.
You need documentation, to have a case against her.
Keep everything/correspondence/e-mails/voice-mails etc., that your Husband has.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I just asked an attorney friend and he said: Generally a child may not be taken out of the jurisdiction without: (1) consent of the other parent or (2) permission granted by the court. And he said, courts generally are not going to turn down a parent's plan to take a child on a reasonable vacation, unless there are indications of foul play, i.e. she's planning on moving to SA, etc.

This friend is helping someone who's wife took their son while in her custody (they share custody) and moved to another state. He can't simply request she return him, she already has filed for sole custody in the new state, so he has to file for a court order for her to return the son here and serve her in the new state, he can't charge her with parental kidnapping for some reason, it's a mess and a legal nightmare, not easy at all.

I know a lot about this topic because my son was kidnapped by his father and taken to Nigeria for 10 years, 11 months. Even though parental kidnapping charges were filed against his father here in CA his government didn't cooperate or even acknowledge he'd done anything wrong, and I couldn't simply have picked him up if I'd known where he was. I and my son are one of the reasons the law was changed and both parents now have to sign for a child to obtain a passport.

That being said, this is what the State Dept says about International Child Custody Disputes:

There are legal limits to the assistance that U.S. authorities can provide to parents involved in a child custody dispute. When an American child is abducted overseas by a parent, the U.S. Government's role is to help the remaining parent by locating the child, monitoring the child's welfare, and providing information about child custody laws and procedures in the country where the child has been taken. Consular officers overseas can issue a U.S. passport to a child involved in a custody dispute, if the child appears in person at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, and if there is no court order from the foreign court of that country barring the child's departure from the country.

Parents who are involved in a custody dispute overseas should find out whether the foreign country to which the child has been taken is party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Under the Hague Convention, a child who has been wrongfully removed from a parent may be returned to his or her place of habitual residence.

Yet, this is all for actual parental kidnappings, not vacations. So basically you need to do whatever you need to do before she takes him out of the country because otherwise she'll have him the time she intends. Find out if you legally CAN file kidnapping charges against her if she takes him on "your" weekend, if she informs you beforehand maybe you can't. Find out if she has to petition the Court for permission if you deny it, or if she even technically needs it. Seek out an attorney tomorrow, because unless someone who answers you here IS one we don't know what the law entails, and trust me, it can get truly complicated, and it doesn't always make us happy.

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answers from Washington DC on

Not legally, no. We needed written permission to take my sks to Bermuda. Further, I was not able to travel with my own DD without her father's permission, even though we are married.

I would look into what you need to do to flag his travel. Keep him in the country would also be my advice. Once he crosses to another country, his return is that much harder.

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answers from Chicago on

I have sole custody of my daughter. She has a passport. We travel internationally at least once a year. I always carry my divorce decree with me, but in 7 years I have NEVER had anyone ask (and that is flying in and out of a myriad of US airports to a myriad of different destinations as well as boarding cruise ships).

In my divorce decree it is stated that her father can exercise visitation for an extended 4 day weekend over father's day. That would trump my vacation plans, because that is how our visitation agreement is written.

There are many different types of custody and decrees. You need to get very specific with what kind of custody you have and what kind of decree you have.
If your husband is the "non-custodial" parent he didn't have to sign a waiver. The fact that he DID means that he must have "some" type of custody. "Rights" and "custody" are 2 completely different things.

If your husband has joint custody, just not primary physical custody and he has "partening time" specified in the decree, then yes, she will have to send the kid back on a plane. yes, they allow international travel for a 6 year old - you'll have to check with the airlines for available flights if it requires a connection. And yes, you will have to work out the unaccompanied minor fees.

yes, you are being unfair to expect her not to take her child out of the country, unless it's on the 'no fly' or list of unsafe travel sites as designated by the US Government. Not "liking" the destination means your husband should have stayed married if he wanted a bigger say in how his kids were raised. But this is after the fact and the biggest by-product of divorce. he doesn't get a say when the kids are with their mom. She doesn't get a say when the kids are with you. That's how it is. I would start trying to work WITH her so that the kids are not caught in the crossfire.

If you have documented evidence that she denied you visitation on a decree ordered parenting visit, you need to hire a lawyer and sue her for contempt of court. I don't know that it's kidnapping, if you know where the child is, but it's certainly contempt of court and Judges frown on that.

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answers from Chicago on

She has a passport - you know what you can/can not do for your particular castodial agreement - if it breaks rules then show her she must be held accountable and face consequences. Honestly, if you want full custody encourage her to break the rules by documenting and not putting up too much of a fight it sounds like she will "hang herself" in the end.

Yes, bad idea for a 6yr old to fly alone, but you HAVE to pay the airline extra to have a "babysitter" flight attendant; if she does not pay the amt he will not go on the plane.

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answers from Portland on

The police do not enforce visitation. They may take a report for documentation but that would only be done as a courtesy and you cannot count on it. Taking him on a weekend dthat interferes with your week end is NOT kidnapping. The only recourse the father has is to go to court.

A friend took her daughter to Mexico and did have to have a notarized statement from the father before she could go. It may be that the statement was to get the passport. But I think she would have to have one every time.

Call or look on the passport web site to know. It's probably under Federal government. You can also call the airline on which she wants to fly.

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answers from Los Angeles on

She has to get the father's signature to take him out of the country, and I highly doubt any sane judge would put that she can just leave the country when she wishes with the child. How do I know this? Every year my brother has to get his ex wife's signature to take his son out of the country and he is the custodial parent. A child that is 6 years old will never fly from South America to Texas as unaccompanied minors on international flights are forbidden.

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answers from Houston on

This can depend on the country you are entering. For Mexico you must have a notarized letter from the non traveling parent giving permission. Most European countries are not so strict. Or didn't used to be. I took my daughter to Paris and no one asked for a letter although I did have it. So check with a travel agent or the airline. They can tell you.


answers from Redding on

It should all be in the court orders.



answers from Dallas on

It depends on the language in the divorce decree. Mine specifically states that I have to have written permission from my ex-husband to travel with my child and he has to have mine. I have to give him specific travel plans before I leave as well, with contact phone numbers, dates of travel, interim destinations, etc. Having said that, he just took our daughter to another country for spring break, and no one here in the States ever asked him a single question as he was checking in for an international flight with a small child. It wasn't until they reached their destination that the other country asked to see that he had my permission to bring our child into that country.



answers from Dallas on

Jo W. I don't know what laws look like where you are from but here in Texas, Father's day is protected, she is absolutly not alloud to keep him away from his dad for any reason that weekend. Additionally, your comment about her venting about his ex is very rude and inappropriate, she is simply seeking help, about a situation which is obviously very difficult. I think you should keep your erroneous advice and judgement off the forums.



answers from Dallas on

Dear K.,

Your issue is a valid concern. I would never want my 6 y/o to travel unaccompanied anywhere, much less from a foreign country! I believe most airlines don't allow it at that age. Regardless, as a parent I would not want my kid going through that. My teenagers have flown with escorts and they made them miss their flight due to sheer apathy and incompetence. And they were talking to them!

She is not supposed to interfere with the father's visitation. If you do nothing though, she probably will be able to travel with him. Your husband needs to hire a good lawyer now to put a kabosh on this right away. Do not delay. Best wishes and God bless!



answers from New York on

To the best of my knowledge the custodial parent has the right to take the child unless there is something in the court orders that prevent her from doing so.


answers from Phoenix on

It depends on what it says in your court order. Good luck!



answers from Dallas on

I thought I needed a notarized letter from DH to take DS (age 3) to Mexico. When I went last year no one asked to see it.

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