As 2018 draws to a close, many Arizonans may be planning international travel with their children next summer, or during spring break. This can be a difficult and sensitive topic for parents who share custody because of a family court case.
Read on for a list of important considerations!
The prospect of international travel with children in the aftermath of a family court case worries parents. Many fear an abduction, or that harm will befall a child while touring a different country. It requires considerable preparation, too, including vaccinations, passports, and securing an itinerary that can be fairly distributed to the non-traveling parent or other family members.
These simple rules will help:
1. If your family court case already has a decree, follow the judge's rules for international travel. That includes giving notice to the other party, and quite possibly securing their consent. Don't guess at what is allowed. Read the decree!
2. The issue of who has sole decision-making authority ("legal custody") will have some meaning, especially in the eyes of any government agency responsible for allowing travel with minor children. But it won't be necessarily decisive. For example, even in cases where one parent has sole LDM, the judge may have included restrictions (or even prohibitions) on international travel with kids. So don't make reckless assumptions.
3. If there is no decree yet, and one of the parents is making noises about traveling across the international boundary, you should either: (a) negotiate a written, temporary agreement; or (b) ask the judge for a temporary order that gives everyone the necessary guidance.
4. Examine public notices posted by the federal government (State Department) about the political climate or medical issues in countries where children might travel. Either can change abruptly, so don't rely on old news. Take the time to obtain the latest updates.
5. Make sure the country in question has signed the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and that it has passed laws meant to put that treaty into effect. (It is possible the country may have adopted a newer treaty intended to accomplish the same goal, so look for that, too.) This is especially important if the traveling parent is a former (or current) citizen or immigrant of that country. He or she may have a support network still living there who could tempt or persuade them not to return to the U.S. in violation of the family court's parenting plan. Not all countries enforce this international treaty as vigorously as others - even when they have technically signed it - so do your research.
6. By the same token, if these kinds of trips occurred before without incident (e.g. during the marriage), the children always enjoy and benefit from the experience, and the destination is safe, don't object to the travel just because you can. That is obnoxious and hurtful to the kids ... and they won't likely forget.
These issues can become complex quickly. If you think you may need help understanding them, do not hesitate to consult with a family law attorney who has taken the time to study and litigate the question of international travel and the Hague Convention. Not every lawyer does - even those who advertise a specialty in family law practice.