For many divorcing parents in Michigan who are sharing custody of their children, the custody agreement needs to address rules around not just out-of-state travel with the kids but travel outside the country. If you or your co-parent have family in Canada or abroad, it’s probably only reasonable that your children be allowed to accompany you to visit them. If you do business overseas or travel out of the country for other reasons, you might also want the option of letting your kids come with you while they’re on vacation from school.
Some parents are hesitant to allow their soon-to-be ex to take the kids out of the country – particularly if they have family ties to that country or dual citizenship. It’s important to know what steps you can take to protect your parental rights without unduly infringing on your co-parent’s rights.
Do your children have passports?
If your kids don’t have U.S. passports and they’re under the age of 16, both you and your co-parent must give your consent before they can get one if you have joint custody. If they’re at least 16 but still minors, they need only one parent’s consent. Note that kids under 16 don’t need a U.S. passport to travel to Canada.
If your children already have U.S. passports, the U.S. Department of State has no authority to prevent them from traveling abroad or to revoke their passport. They also can’t be expected to notify you if your child leaves the country.
Including restrictions in your custody agreement
You do, however, have the right to seek restrictions in your custody agreement that require one parent to notify or get authorization from the other before taking or allowing the children to travel outside of the country (as well as more than a specified distance or across state lines if you choose).
Every situation is unique, so it’s best to rely on sound legal guidance to determine what restrictions you wish to seek on your children’s travel. If you and your co-parent can’t agree on those restrictions, you’ll need to be prepared to show a court why they’re reasonable and in your kids’ best interest.