If you think that it is a possibility that your child may be taken outside of the U.S. by a parent, guardian or family member without your permission, there are steps you can take to prevent this. Don’t wait, act now.
Know that there is not an “exit interview” to leave the U.S. Many people mistakenly believe that it would be impossible for one parent to remove a child without the permission of the other parent. They believe that all legal documentation is carefully examined before a child is allowed to get on a plane or cross an international border. They think that a child will be stopped unless s/he has both parents there, or has written permission to travel. This is not true.
Have your own legal proof
Have proof handy and available. This means that if you are the parent of the child you should have a certified birth certificate available at all times to prove it.
If you already have a court order regarding your legal rights (divorce decree, parentage decree) have that available as well.
When to seek a court order
If you don’t already have a court order, you may need one. If things have changed significantly since your last court order, you may need to update.
A court order can do the following:
- Specify who gets access and possession of the child, and when.
- Name non-parent conservators (if you are not the child’s parent you can be named as a non-parent conservator and given rights to the child by a court.)
- Specify whether or not the parties to it are allowed to leave the country with the child.
- Require the court’s approval for international travel.
- Require that the child’s passport be held by a third party.
If you are not living with your child’s other parent (or never did), and have never had a court order regarding that child, you may need to get one.
If you already have a court order, but it does not have any provisions prohibiting international travel, you may need to get that order modified. A court order can also specify certain acceptable conditions for international travel.
Remember, if you do nothing, then the child’ s other parent (or guardian, or conservator) may have the legal right to take the child out of the country anytime they want to do so, without your permission.
What about dual citizenship?
Your child may be a dual citizen. If that is true, and their other parent is also a citizen of that foreign country, it can make the situation more difficult for you.
For instance, your child may be issued a foreign passport without your knowledge or consent.
Some countries do not recognize court orders from the U.S.
In certain situations, you may be able to contact a foreign embassy or consulate to request that you be given notice of any applications, or to state that you do not give your permission for a passport application to be made. However, this is not the case for every foreign country.
Other Steps to Take
Become familiar with the U.S. Department of State’s website regarding Prevention of Child Abduction.
Register with the “Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program” , if this applies to your situation.
Make sure you have the appropriate legal documentation, available and ready.
Have a current, valid Texas court order.
Contact a family law attorney that can help you decide how to make a plan to prevent your child being taken out of the country without your permission.
Do all you can
If you have a concern about your child being removed from the country without your consent, do not wait. Act now to make sure that you have all of the knowledge that you need, and that you are doing all that you can to prevent it.
We have over 35 years of experience in Texas family law. We can serve you in English and in Spanish. We can help you understand all of your options and make a plan. Check out our home page, you may be entitled to a free consultation!