International Travel During Divorce

We have all heard tragic stories that illustrate what can happen when a parent takes a child off to his/her native land and refuses to return or to return the child.  Children can even disappear into a foreign country forever and never make contact with the abandoned parent again.  

There have even been occasional, rare cases in which both parents are native-born Americans but one parent, who is about to lose visitation, custody or parental rights, or just doesn’t like sharing the child, takes the child to a foreign country and vanishes.  The parent absconding with the child may even tell the child that the other spouse is dead or “doesn’t want him” anymore.

Negotiating whether and where a parent is allowed to travel with a child during a divorce proceeding should involve investigating what holds the parent to this country.  Does the foreign-born parent have a job, investments, a circle of friends in the US?  Is he or she comfortable in the US?  Or, on the other hand, does he struggle with English and have no job or friends or other stable connections that he is unlikely to abandon?  Has he/she often complained about life in the US and expressed a wish to return home?

Often a judge will allow the American-born spouse to hold the passport of the child, so that the foreign-born spouse will have to inform the American spouse if he/she plans to go abroad and take the child for a visit to the home country.  An explicit itinerary should be provided including a return ticket.

Occasionally a parent will claim he/she is only planning to take the child to some benign location such as London or Paris.  But it is easy to take a connecting flight from there to another country with fewer close ties to the US, from which it may be very difficult to extricate the child.

Vigilance is required!

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Marie Piazza