Traveling Out of the Country with Children: the Passport Issue

I am frequently asked by a very concerned parent, "I am afraid that my child's other parent is going to take the children to ____________ (any country out of the US) and not bring them back. What can we do?" Or the flip-side of this problem is, "I want to take the kids on a Disney Cruise and we need passports, but the other parent won't give permission." This is really both sides of the same problem. Is there anything the Florida Divorce lawyer can do to help?

The first question is really about child abduction. Let me begin by saying that to legally move a child from this country to another requires a passport. There are special requirements to obtain passports for minor children. Both parents of a child under the age of 16 must be present in the passport agency and sign a consent for a passport. One parent cannot unilaterally obtain a passport for a child under 16. The passport forms and requirements are very clear. If the one of the parents doesn't consent to obtaining a passport for the child, then a passport will not be issued, and that child may not legally leaving the county. If the child already has a passport, we can ask the court to impound that child's passport if the threat of abduction is real and credible.

But that leads to the other problem. One parent, with the best of intentions, wants to take the child on a Disney Cruise over spring break, but the other parent won't sign the Passport form. Can the lawyer help?

What an attorney can do is file a Motion with the court, and require the parent who won't sign the passport to explain to the court why it is in the Best Interest of the Child not to go on the trip. Is the non-signing parent really worried about the traveling parent abducting the child? Or is the non-signing parent just trying to punish the traveling parent? After the court reviews the Motion and hears testimony from the parties and arguments by counsel, if the court is satisfied that it is just a Disney Cruise trip without any intention of abduction, the court can order the non-signing parent to sign the documents for travel abroad.