Family vacations are a wonderful time for parents and children to bond over a new adventure. When these vacations take place outside the country, they create shared memories of new and unique experiences which will last a lifetime.

When planning to take your children to a foreign country, be aware obtaining a passport for a minor child of parents who are divorced can be complicated. Make sure you understand the type of paperwork that is required well before you start planning your trip.

Passports for Minors

There is always a fear that a parent who is divorced may take the children and run away, especially if they themselves are a foreign national. When divorces are bitter and there are family ties outside the country, many people are skeptical that an ex-spouse will always choose to bring the children home. For that reason, it is not as simple to get a passport for the child of divorced parents as it is for anyone else.

When a child under the age of 16 is applying for a passport for the first time, both parents must appear at the U.S. passport agency in person, and will have to submit evidence that they are the child’s parents (usually in the form of a birth certificate).

If a parent cannot attend the application in person, the applying parent must bring a signed and notarized written statement from the non-applying parent approving the decision to apply for a passport. This statement must be dated within the past three months, must include a copy of the non-applying parent’s photo identification, and must be signed and notarized on the same day.

Without both parents appearing in person, and without a signed and notarized consent form, the only other way to obtain a passport for a minor child is to show proof that you have sole custody of the child. This does not mean that the parent who has the children most of the time gets to unilaterally decide if the child should have a passport—sole custody means that either the other parent is dead, has had their parental rights terminated, has been declared incompetent, or that for some other reason, a judge has issued a decree naming the applying parent as the child’s sole legal guardian.

If none of these situations are applicable, and the child’s other parent simply cannot be found in time, parents can submit a Statement of Exigent/Special Family Circumstances explaining why the non-applying parent is not available to consent to the passport application. This statement will be reviewed very carefully and is only granted for extraordinarily good reasons, as the state department takes child abductions extremely seriously.

Planning for Foreign Travel

Sometimes an opportunity to travel internationally arises out of the blue. For other divorcing couples, especially those who have family in other countries, international travel and passport applications should be discussed in the couple’s parenting plan. When the possibility of foreign travel is high, and the parents both agree that they do not object to international travel, then the details for making these arrangements can be spelled out beforehand so that each former spouse is comfortable with the plans of the other.

A family law attorney can help you plan for these contingencies during your divorce. At Pacific Northwest Family Law, we help parents work with each other to create a parenting plan that is in the best interests of your children. Through mediation, negotiation, or litigation if necessary, our knowledgeable Washington family law attorneys will take your side and help you through difficult situations.

If you would like more information about parenting plans, child support, visitation, or any other family law issue, simply call 509-572-3700 to schedule your appointment today.