Children's Passports and International Travel after Texas Divorce

One of issues that comes up in some of my divorces cases in Texas is international travel with children. There are times when divorcing parents may wish to travel internationally with their children.

However, when there is not an amicable relationship with an ex-spouse may this can be a contentious issue. This can be the non-traveling has concerns that the other party may try to keep the child in a foreign country where enforcing a Texas custody Order may be very difficult.

United States Restrictions on International Travel

Much of the law regarding international travel with children after a divorce is governed by United States Federal Law. Some ways that the United States Government tries limit international abductions includes:

  1. Passport Applications - when applying for a passport for a child under the age of 16, both parents must be present or a single parent must have proof of sole custody.
  2. State Department's Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program notifies a parent if a passport is requested in a child's name if that individual has been enrolled in the program.
  3. Parents who are not traveling with their children must provide notarized consent for their children to leave the country.

Texas Family International Restrictions – Risk of Abduction

As mentioned above international travel is governed by Federal Law. However, under Federal Texas as well as other states have been given the authority to:

  1. A Texas Court can take possession of a passport as long as it deems necessary to reduce the likelihood of the removal of a minor child from the United States.
  2. In such cases where a Texas Court takes possession of the passport, the action to withhold the passport should be reported to the “Office of Children’s Issues” to prevent unauthorized attempts to replace it.

If there is a risk of abduction a some of the additional safety precautions a Texas Court may take under Texas Family Code Section 153.503 include:

  1. appoint a person other than the parent of the child who presents a risk of abducting the child as the sole managing conservator of the child;
  2. require supervised visitation of the parent by a visitation until the court finds under that supervised visitation is no longer necessary;
  3. Depending on the circumstances a parent might ask that it be required for the traveling party to post a ne exeat bond prior to any international travel. The bond would be posted for an amount that would be contemplated to cover the cost of pursuing an abduction case across international borders.

Intentional Abduction Risk Factors

When Considering if there is a risk of an international abductions the factors a Texas Court will look at under Texas Family Code 153.502 include has a parent:

  1. Taken, enticed away, kept, withheld, or concealed a child in violation of another person’s right of possession of or access to the child, unless the parent presents evidence that the parent believed in good faith that the parent’s conduct was necessary to avoid imminent harm to the child;
  2. Previously threatened to take, entice away, keep, withhold, or conceal a child in violation of another person’s right of possession of or access to the child;
  3. lacks financial reason to stay in the United States, including evidence that the parent is financially independent, is able to work outside of the United States, or is unemployed;
  4. has recently engaged in planning activities that could facilitate the removal of the child from the United States

Texas Family International Restrictions – No Risk of Abduction

When there is not a risk of abduction the court may require only language that applies to the application and possession of a child’s passports. Those provisions include:

  1. Which parent is authorized to apply for a passport for the child.
  2. If a party applies for a passport for the child, that party is ORDERED to notify the other conservator of that fact no later than 5 days after the application.
  3. Which parent has the right to maintain possession of the passports and the requirements for delivery of the passport to the other parent.
  4. Written notice to the other parent regarding international travel and what that written notice should include such as date, time, and location of the child’s departure from the United States.

If a parent violates these provisions of that have been Ordered they then the other parent could bring a Petition to Enforce by Contempt. In such situation if the court could Order monitory damages, reimbursement costs including attorney’s fees, or possible jail time.

If an ex-spouse has plans for international travel, it may be prudent for you to discuss the trip with a Texas Family Law Attorney. A Texas Family Law Attorney who is familiar with Texas family law may be able to help you develop a plan that protects your children.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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