If you are married to a citizen of another country, have children, and
are divorcing or considering a divorce, it is natural to fear what would
happen if your spouse were to take your children out of the country. If
this happens, it can be difficult to bring the child back to the United
States. Is there a way to prevent this from happening?
Please note: If you are facing a custody situation where this is an issue,
it is important to contact a family law attorney experienced in international
matters right away to advise you on your case.
If you and the other parent are divorced or divorcing, you may be able
to add travel restrictions to your custody order or temporary orders.
If your child has a passport, however, the court may not be able to prevent the child from leaving the country
with a parent. Many parents have had success having the child’s
passport surrendered to the court. In this situation, a parent who wishes
to travel outside of the country with the child would have to request
the return of the passport from the court, which would necessitate a hearing.
If both parents do not agree to surrender the children’s passports,
a parent who wishes to have their child’s passport surrendered must
be able to present compelling evidence that the other parent intends to
abscond with the child. A former spouse’s citizenship in another
country is not enough to prove this on its own.
If your child does not have a passport, you may be able to prevent your spouse from obtaining one against your
wishes. Typically, for the child to be issued a passport, both parents
must give their consent, unless:
- One parent has sole custody
- One parent can show that the other parent cannot be located
- One parent has court documents showing that the other parent’s parental
rights were terminated
- One parent has court orders allowing them to travel with the child
- One parent demonstrates that there is some other extenuating circumstance
that justifies the issuing of a passport without the other parent’s
The U.S. State Department has programs available that can alert you if
someone attempts to apply for a passport in your child’s name.
Consult with an Attorney About Your Child Custody Matter
Whether you fear that your former spouse will abduct your child or you
desperately want to “go home” to your country of origin with
your son or daughter, it is crucial that you involve a lawyer to protect
your rights. We can inform you of what is and is not possible from a legal
standpoint so that you don’t run into any issues.
involves complex legal issues that require the services of an attorney.
If you are getting a divorce and are worried that your ex-spouse may try
to leave the country with your child, do not delay in getting in touch
with a Washington family law lawyer. We invite you to contact McKinley Irvin to
schedule an appointment. We have represented many clients in international custody matters.