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Can you prevent your co-parent from taking your child abroad?

If your spouse has family, business or other ties outside the U.S., it’s wise to address international travel with your children in your custody agreement. If your children have grandparents or other family members overseas, you may be fine with your kids traveling to visit them on occasion with your co-parent – as long as you’re informed about their plans. 

However, what if you have concerns that your co-parent will take the children out of the country without your permission – or worse, not return them? There are steps you can take to help prevent that.

Passports for most minors require two signatures

If your children are under 16 years of age and don’t already have passports, as long as your co-parent doesn’t have sole custody, both of you need to approve their passport application, either in person or by completing and notarizing a consent form. 

What if you’re concerned that your co-parent will attempt to do something fraudulent to obtain a passport for a child without your consent or will allow a 16- or 17-year-old to obtain a passport without consulting with you?

The Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program

This program, known as CPIAP, allows parents to register children under 18 in a database maintained by the U.S. Department of State. If a passport application is received for a child, the parent who registered should be notified and given 30 days to object or consent to the application. Even if your child already has a passport, by putting them in the CPIAP database, you should receive a notification if their passport is renewed. 

Although the CPIAP is designed to prevent parental abduction, the Department of State doesn’t guarantee that parents will receive a notification if an application for their child is received. Further, it can’t notify parents when a child travels on a passport they already have or on another country’s passport if they have dual nationality. It also won’t revoke a validly obtained passport.

The penalties can be significant for a parent with shared custody who takes a child out of the country without the other parent’s consent. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always stop people. The more you learn about steps you can take to minimize the chances of your children traveling abroad without your permission, the better your chances are of preventing this from occurring.