Pittsburgh Family Law Services, P.C. Blog

Five things to do before your international vacation with your children

Plane flying to luxurious vacation destination
Traveling abroad is an exciting experience for children. They get to visit a new location, see fantastic sights, be surrounded by different languages, and experience a new culture. Many parents want their children to have this experience.  When you share custody though, it’s not so simple to just go to the Caribbean at a moment’s notice.  There are certain expectations that parents have to follow when planning any trip with their children, and even more when you want to go outside of the country.  Below are some things to keep in mind when you’re making your travel plans: 

1.  Read your custody order:  Regardless of what your friends, family, or the internet may have told you, your custody order signed by the judge is the document that controls.  The Order will have information about how much notice you have to give, what information you have to provide the other parent, whether the other parent has to agree to the trip, etc.  You should interpret these requirements strictly.  That means, if you are required to provide at least 30 days’ notice, you have to provide that amount of time.  It’s far easier to address problems if you can establish that you followed the Order exactly. 

Give as much information as possible, as early as possible:  Even if it isn’t required by your Custody Order, you should provide as much information as possible to the other parent.  This includes where you intend to go, your intended dates of travel, how you will be getting there (and once booked, your flight itinerary), where you will stay, and the names of any others who will be traveling with you.  You should also let them know about any possible communication issues; not every country has reliable WiFi or cell phone service and if you know this in advance, letting the parent know prevents a situation where they’re concerned about why they can’t contact the children.  This information ensures the other parent knows where their children will be, and that is particularly important when you’re traveling to a different country. 

3.  Ask the other parent for consent to apply for a Passport:  If your children are under age 16, both parents will be required to consent to the Passport application.  This involves either both parents applying at the same time or one parent submitting a Statement of Consent.  If the two of you share legal custody, you cannot obtain a Passport without the other parent’s consent unless a judge issues an order explicitly authorizing you to do so.  This is something that you need to ask the other parent as soon as possible.  Delays in Passport applications are inevitable and it can take several months to receive approval.  As of 2023, you should apply at a minimum 6 months in advance and the closer to a year, the better.  This will give you enough time to obtain consent, or address the matter in front of the Court if you are unable to obtain consent. 

4.  Do your research on entry requirements for the chosen country:  Different countries have different requirements.  Some only require a Passport, but others will require evidence of certain vaccinations.  Some of these vaccines may not be part of your child’s regular vaccine schedule and will require consulting with and obtaining consent from the other parent in order to arrange it.  Again, this is something that you want to bring up as far in advance as possible, so you avoid having to rush at the last minute. 

5.  Address any concerns the other parent has:  Sometimes parents are not comfortable with international travel at all, or they’re uncomfortable with a particular destination.  Some of these concerns are very general and exist because the children have simply never traveled out of the country before.  Others are more specific such as concerns about a particular destination.  If they express this to you, it’s best to have a genuine discussion so you can understand their perspective and provide information to alleviate those concerns.  Most of the time, a simple discussion is all that it takes to help the other parent feel more comfortable.  If they feel confident that the children will be kept safe, then they are less likely to refuse consent to a Passport. 

Sometimes the other parent simply does not consent to obtaining a Passport or does not wish for the children to go to a particular location.  If that happens, a local family law attorney can assist you in asking the judge to intervene.  But many times, that process can be made unnecessary by careful advance planning.  The sooner you inform the other parent of your vacation plans, the more likely it is that you will be able to go on your trip without hassle.