Am I Allowed to Take My Child Out of the Country?

Extended family members like grandparents, aunts, and uncles can all enrich a child’s life and usually welcome every opportunity they can get to see a new grandchild/niece/nephew. When a married couple has extended family living in different cities or states, it can be challenging to arrange visits with each spouse’s extended family members so that each extended family feels as if they are being included in the child’s life. This task only becomes more difficult when the parents are divorced, the child resides primarily with one parent and the other parent receives only occasional visitation. These difficulties are further compounded when one parent’s extended family resides outside the country.

Taking your child to visit extended family members in another country (such as Mexico or another Central American country) can present legal difficulties during and after an Arizona divorce. Before loading up the car or jumping aboard a plane, consider speaking with an Arizona family law attorney first about how to take a trip abroad with your child without landing yourself in legal hot water.

The Legal Danger of Removing Your Child from the Country

If you were to suddenly and without warning leave the country with your child – regardless of whether you were the custodial parent – you may be accused of parental kidnapping by the other parent. This is a serious criminal charge that can result in your arrest by local authorities, even if you are out of the country. Furthermore, a court may view such an action negatively and consequently limit or restrict your visitation time with the child going forward. It is always a good idea, therefore, to secure the permission of the court before taking your child out of the country.

The General Rule: If the Parents Agree, the Court Will Agree as Well

Obtaining the court’s approval to travel out of the United States with your child is not necessarily a difficult task. You should first speak with the other parent about your plans and intentions and ask if that parent will agree to allow you to temporarily travel outside the U.S. If the other parent does agree to your proposed travel (and you are able to obtain a passport for the child if you do not already have one – a feat that requires the approval of both parents in most circumstances), either your or the other parent’s attorney can prepare a proposed order for the family law judge assigned to your divorce case to sign. You should carry a copy of this signed order with you when you travel with your child outside the country. The order should include the court’s orders regarding where you can travel, how long you may remain outside the country, what to do if circumstances arise that will delay your return, and when you are expected to be back in the United States.

What if the Other Parent Will Not Agree to Allow Me to Travel with the Child?

If the other parent is not agreeable with your plans, you will need to file a motion with the court and directly seek the court’s permission to travel out of the country. The court will hold a hearing and allow you and the other parent an opportunity to present your respective arguments and concerns. The court will then make a decision based on what it feels is in the child’s best interests. Having an experienced Arizona family law attorney present with you during this hearing can be extremely valuable as he or she can highlight the most relevant and persuasive facts and circumstances, thereby increasing the chances of your request being approved.

Arizona child custody attorney Patrick J. Monahan of the Monahan Law Firm, PLC can assist you in requesting permission from the court to temporarily travel outside the United States. Contact his office at (623) 385-3190.

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