Passport Issues In Divorce And Custody Cases

International travel with children can be a highly contested issue in divorce and child custody cases. Often, when international travel is foreseeable or a necessary part of divorced couple’s profession(s), the couple can incorporate mutually agreeable travel arrangements in their final divorce settlement. In other cases, the couple may not be so lucky. You may be concerned about your child traveling internationally with your ex-spouse for a number of reasons, including the safety and well-being of your child or the potential that your ex may never return with your kid. For this reason, child passport issues can be addressed by Virginia family law courts.

U.S. passports can only be obtained by an American citizen or national. However, an applicant who meets the criteria for a passport cannot be arbitrarily denied one by the government. Minors must appear in person to apply for a passport, and once issued, the passport is valid for 5 years. In order for a child under the age of 16 to get a passport, consent of both the child’s parents is generally required. Children 16 and above only need the consent of one parent to obtain a passport.

Virginia courts have a broad range of authority to get involved in the international travel of you and your ex-spouse’s minor child.  In divorce cases, where both parents have joint legal custody over their child, both parents must consent before the child can get a passport. But if you have sole legal custody over your child and can provide a court document affirming this fact, you will be able to obtain a passport for your child over your ex-spouse’s objection.

However, where you and your ex-spouse have joint custody but your ex objects to your child’s obtaining a passport, the court can resolve the dispute. The court can order your ex-spouse to sign the passport application or otherwise cooperate in the application process. Similarly, if the court feels that you are a flight risk and may abscond with your child, the judge can deny your request for your ex’s cooperation in the passport process.

If your child already has a passport but you and your ex-spouse cannot agree on whether your child should be traveling overseas, the court can authorize or restrict international travel. As part of its authority to make custody and visitation orders, the court can impose mandated restrictions on travel such as where, when and how frequently your child can travel and with whom. The court can also require you to provide a detailed travel itinerary and contact information to your ex, as well as to the court, prior to your child’s traveling internationally.

If you disagree with your ex-spouse’s insistence that your child be issued a passport and the court has not yet made a determination, you can submit the requisite information about your child to the U.S. State Department’s Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program. Once your child’s information is submitted, if your ex-spouse attempt to get your child a passport, the Department will notify you and you can take the appropriate action to block the passport request. Although this is a limited remedy, it is a viable, short-term solution.

If you are having a disagreement with your ex-spouse regarding the ability of your child to travel or obtain a passport, you need an experienced family law attorney who knows the law. The custody lawyers at DiPietro Family Law Group, PLLC have years of experience handling custody cases in jurisdictions across Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. Contact us to schedule a consultation today at (703) 370 – 5555.

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