Is My Ex-Spouse Allowed to Take Our Child Out of the Country?

Hossein Berenji, Sep 08, 2021

Divorces can be complex and emotional processes. Even the most amicable separations can grow contentious.

This process becomes even more delicate when children are involved. When a court establishes a custody arrangement following a divorce, it may create specific rules for traveling internationally with the children.

These rules may apply to long-term relocation and short recreational trips or visits to outside the United States. Every custody arrangement is unique.

If your ex-spouse plans to take your child on an international trip, read on. Below, we will explore some of the most significant issues related to international travel and custody arrangements.

Review the Terms of the Custody Agreement

California family courts usually issue custody orders during the divorce process. These court orders detail the rights and responsibilities of each parent regarding their children.

If you and your ex-spouse share custody, you will each be able to oppose important decisions regarding child-raising.

Some common examples of big decisions include:

  • Schooling
  • Religious training and upbringing
  • Medical treatments and care

Leaving the country also qualifies as an important life decision. Accordingly, any parent with custody rights can oppose their ex-spouse’s attempts to take their child on an international trip. That is especially true if the international trip involves a permanent relocation.

In some cases, custody orders will explicitly prohibit the child from leaving the country without consent from both parents. When one parent tries to take a child abroad without the other party’s permission, the other parent may need to file a court order.

However, the situation may be different if your ex-spouse has full custody of your child. In this case, they may have the right to travel with your child internationally — without your consent. However, there might be some exceptions.

According to the custody laws in California, a child’s passport can be repossessed if the courts deem it necessary to keep the child safe. Specifically, the courts must decide that the child is at risk of abduction. Possessing the child’s passport will prevent international travel.

If you have visitation rights or other custody privileges that your ex-spouse is wrongfully denying by leaving the country, you may be able to take legal action to stop them.

California Move-Away Laws

Various states have specific move-away laws for situations involving the custody of children. Under California state law, when a parent has sole custody, the other parent can only prevent international travel by proving that the trip will harm the child.

Another factor that will affect your legal options is whether your custody order is permanent or temporary.

If your ex-spouse is planning to take your child out of the country, make sure to speak with an accomplished family law attorney. A skilled legal professional can examine your custody order to help you understand your options.

Proving that international travel will harm your child may persuade a court to prohibit the trip. However, the opposite is also possible. If the other parent can demonstrate to the court that international travel or relocation is in the child’s best interests, the court may approve the travel plan.

In this instance, the court may permit international travel or relocation, even if your custody arrangement specifies joint custody.

Consult with a Family Law Attorney

No matter the circumstances of your custody case, it is vital to consult with a legal expert. Relocating a child after divorce can be a very contentious issue. Depending on the specifics of your custody agreement, you may have options to prevent relocation.