More and more parents are taking their children on international trips. Traveling to another country may not be that much more expensive than a trip to Disneyworld. However, before booking an international trip for your child with whom you share custody, make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities so you don't end up in trouble with the court.
Permission to Travel Outside the U.S. and Child Custody
Taking a child out of the country will generally depend on the parenting plan and child custody orders. Review your child custody order for what is says about out-of-state (or international) travel and travel that impedes the other parent's visitation. Talk to your family law attorney about any restrictions your order has on travel and how to get permission from the other parent or the court.
If the parent has sole legal and physical custody of a child, the parent may not need to seek permission from the other parent to take the child out of the country temporarily. However, most parenting agreements in Missouri provide for shared or joint custody, which may require the other parent to grant permission for international travel.
Generally, a parent needs the other parent's permission to travel out of the country (or even out of the state), if the travel would mean the other parent misses court-ordered visitation or custody. If the other parent gives permission for international travel, you may also want to get a written copy of the agreement.
Short International Vacations
It may be easier to plan a short international vacation. This may be a week in Canada visiting family or a long weekend in Mexico to enjoy some sun during the Missouri winter. While a parent may need to get permission to take the child out of the country, a short vacation is less likely to interfere with the other parent's visitation or custody schedule.
Long International Vacations
Longer international trips may be more difficult to arrange when the parents cannot agree on allowing the child out of the country for more than a couple of weeks. Long-distance international trips or multi-country itineraries may need a longer time because of the travel distance involved.
Alternatively, the parent and child may be taking part in volunteer activities, cultural or educational activities, or church activities in another country that is a multi-week program. If the other parent does not agree to the travel schedule, the parent will generally have to seek permission from the court.
Getting a Passport for Your Child
If your child does not have a passport, both parents generally need to provide their signatures on behalf of a child under the age of 16. Both parents may need to appear in person, or one parent can provide a signed consent form for the other parent to appear in person. If one parent does not consent to the child getting a passport, the other parent generally needs a court order to show they have sole custody of the child.
Interference With Custody
Under Missouri law, interference with custody is a crime. “A person commits the offense of interference with custody if, knowing that he or she has no legal right to do so, he or she takes or entices from legal custody any person entrusted by order of a court to the custody of another person or institution.” --Missouri Statute Chapter 565.150
If a parent takes a child out of state, interference with custody can be charged as a Class E felony, with penalties including up to four years in prison.
In more serious situations, where the parent intends to deprive the custody right of another who has custody, the parent may be charged with parental kidnapping. The penalties for parental kidnapping increase the longer the parent deprives custody and can be a Class B felony if the child is kept away for 120 days or more.
Talk to Your Missouri Family Law Attorney With Any Travel Questions
If you have any questions about getting permission from the other parent or the court to take your child out of the country for travel, talk to your Missouri family law attorney for help. Cass County family lawyer Joshua Wilson has years of experience in child custody disputes in Missouri. Contact the Joshua Wilson Law Firm today at (816) 331-9968 for a consultation.