School is out for the summer and it is time to travel! When planning your summer travel, if you are a parent who shares custody of your minor child, there are a few things you might need to know and consider. Here are some questions you should ask: Do you have a Custody Order in place? Does your parenting schedule change during the summer months? Are you travelling domestically or internationally?
For parents with a Custody Order in place, you should review your Order to refresh your memory on what is required for travel. Some Orders include specific requirements relating to when or how long you can travel with your minor child. Custody Orders may also prevent parents from exercising summer vacation time the week that school dismisses or the week before school resumes. Other Orders may prevent parents from taking consecutive weeks of summer parenting time (i.e., more than one week of vacation in a row). Also, be sure to understand when your summer parenting week begins and ends. For example, your summer parenting time may go from Saturday to Saturday instead of Sunday to Sunday (maybe to coincide with weekly rentals). Generally, summer parenting time will supersede regular parenting time.
Most Orders do not prevent a parent from traveling with their minor child without the other parent’s consent; however, be sure that your Order does not require you to obtain the other parent’s approval. It is likely your Order simply requires the traveling parent to provide notice and information about travel plans, such as the dates of travel, the address where the child will be staying, and a telephone number to reach the child during the trip. If you are traveling by plane, your Order may also require you to provide the flight itinerary. Some Orders can require a specific amount of advance notice for travel (e.g., one week before the start of your trip). Be sure to pay close attention to and abide by any time frames for notice that are required in your Order.
When travelling internationally, there may be additional steps for you to take such as obtaining a passport for your child. If your child does not have a passport, you should apply for a passport well in advance of your travel plans. When applying for a child’s passport, who is under the age of sixteen, the application must be submitted in person and the child must be present. Although both parents should appear with the child, if both parents cannot be present, there are additional document requirements. In addition to the documents, a copy of the front and back of the non-applying parent’s government-issued photo identification (e.g., a driver’s license) must be submitted with the application. To obtain a passport you must be sure to comply with all of the requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of State. Although many Custody Orders do not address international travel and passport applications, you should always double check to make sure you not only comply with the U.S. Department of State, but also your Order.
Ideally, parents should work together to obtain a passport for their minor child; however, if there is an exigent or a special family circumstance, then the applying parent may still obtain a passport without the cooperation and consent of the other parent. An exigent circumstance may exist if there is a time-sensitive emergency and the inability of your minor child to obtain a passport would jeopardize the child’s health or welfare. A special family circumstance may exist if the minor child’s family situation makes it exceptionally difficult or impossible for one or both of the minor child’s custodial parents to provide the notarized, written consent. Because the exigent or special family circumstances are narrow exceptions, you should refer to the U.S. Department of State for specific information.
If you do not have a Custody Order in place, or you have questions about your Order, you should schedule a consultation with a family law lawyer. Having travel plans derailed, and your child disappointed, is the last thing you want to worry about this summer!
We hope that you and your family enjoy your summer travel. Bon voyage!