Can My Ex Leave the Country with Our Kids?

Can My Ex Leave the Country with Our Kids?

Many parents choose to travel to other countries with their children. When there is a divorce, one or both parents may want to take their kids on international vacations or to visit family and loved ones. As a divorced parent, it’s important to understand the rules concerning this type of travel. Can my ex leave the country with our kids?

Travel with Kids During a California Divorce

When a California divorce is filed, certain orders will be imposed on both parties. During a divorce in California, Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (“ATROS”) will become effective. These are legal orders that apply equally to both parties. One of the ATROS provisions is that neither parent can leave the state with their kids while the case is pending without prior written consent of the other party or a court order. The purpose is to prevent parents from taking kids out of the state before custody and visitation can be decided and finalized. Therefore, if your ex has plans to take your kids out of the country while your case is pending, they will not be able to do outside of an agreement or court order.

International Travel with Kids After Divorce

After your divorce is final, custody and visitation will be decided, and orders will be in place concerning out-of-state travel. Generally, this means that when parents share joint custody, one leaving California with children requires notice to the other parent. Leaving the country, however, tends to be more involved.

Children’s Passports and Divorced Parents

To travel internationally, your kids will need passports. If your children don’t have passports, you and your ex can go to the passport office and complete their application. If one of you cannot appear for the application process, they can complete a form, have it notarized, and provide it and a photocopy of their identification to send with the other parent to the U.S. passport office.

If one of you does not agree, the other will have to file a motion asking for permission to obtain their kid’s passports. If the issue is undecided and there is a concern, you can enroll your children in the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP). This enrollment allows the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues to contact the enrolling parent(s) or legal guardians(s) to verify whether the parental consent requirement for minor passport issuance has been met when a passport application has been submitted for an enrolled child.

If children already have passports, and parents are not in agreement about international travel, the opposing parent can file a motion requesting that the passports be held by the court or one of their attorneys. However, not having a passport may not prevent a parent from traveling into Mexico from California by vehicle or on foot.

In some situations, a parent may have valid reasons to want to prevent their ex from taking their children out of the country. Further, depending on where they plan to take the kids, the destination country may or may not be protective child abduction laws. By contrast, there can also be circumstances when a parent’s opposition could be viewed as unreasonable.

If you have concerns about your ex’s travel plans during or after divorce, you should contact an experienced California child custody attorney. You and your California child custody lawyer can review your circumstances and evaluate your options.

Contact a California Child Custody Attorney

Ideally, you and your ex will have a term in your divorce or custodial orders that addresses your children’s international and domestic travel. However, even with orders in place, working through these and other custodial issues during and after divorce can be challenging. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced child custody attorneys who understand and can help. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We assist clients along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.


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