In Florida, by the end of a divorce the court is required to enter a parenting plan that governs all the details of how the parents are to manage being parents post-divorce. This includes when the children spend time with each parent and where the children spend time with each parent.
Travel In General With Children Post-Divorce
Specifically, the Florida statutes require that a parenting plan consider and address “The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan.” FLA. STAT. § 61.13(e)
So, the first consideration in any travel schedule for a child is whether that travel schedule fits within the child’s school schedule. If a parent requests to travel with the child anywhere, let alone outside of the country, during a school day, the other parent can effectively veto that travel and the court will almost certainly affirm that the child needs to remain in school and not travel. Obviously, there will be exceptions to this rule like funerals and weddings.
If the child is not in school, and a parent has been awarded parenting time with that child, the parent can travel anywhere within the United States with the child. Typically, there will be a clause in the parenting plan requiring the traveling parent to inform the other parent in advance of the location of the child (the hotel accommodations) while traveling. Even if there is not a clause requiring notice of the child’s location, it is common courtesy to always let a parent know where their child is spending the night. At a certain age, a child will typically have their own cell phone which serves as sufficient notice/contact for the other parent, especially if location tracking is activated on the cell phone.
Traveling If There’s Been A Breach Of Trust
Sometimes there will have been an incident where a parent has done something where even a short trip out of state, within reason, is too far for the comfort of the other parent.
In this situation the non-traveling uncomfortable parent can petition the court to prevent travel by the child “upon the presentation of competent substantial evidence that there is a risk that one party may violate the court’s parenting plan by removing a child from this state or country or by concealing the whereabouts of a child” FLA. STAT. § 61.45(1)
The court can then “order that a parent may not remove the child from this state without the notarized written permission of both parents or further court order” FLA. STAT. § 61.45(1)(a)
Passports for Children of Divorce
Typically, the parenting plan will outline how and when the parents can take the children out of country. Usually, removal from the country can only happen when the other party provides written permission to travel outside of the country.
If the parenting plan does not address travel out of the country neither parent can take the child out of the country.
No one can travel internationally without a passport. A child who is to leave the country must have a passport. Getting a passport for a child requires permission from both parents (just a simple signature).
If one parent has complete custody and control of a child per the parenting plan, the custodial parent can show the agreement to the State Department (usually via a post-office employee) and be issued a passport without the permission of the other parent.
Predictably, post office employees can be befuddled by a 20 page parenting plan especially when the word “custody” no longer exists under Florida law. So, often a separate clarification order is required for the purposes of getting the child a passport.
Even when the child has a passport, it is the policy of almost all airlines to also require a letter of permission to leave the country (this is a notoriously flimsy kidnap prevention technique)
Passport applications can be forged. If you are truly concerned about unauthorized international travel by your children. You can enroll your children in the State Department’s Child Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP). Enrollment requires the State Department to contact both parents if anyone tries to apply for a passport for any enrolled children. This serves as another safeguard against the possibility of forgery or subterfuge in regards to children’s passports.
Travel Outside The Country For Children After Divorce
Florida law provides very strict and specific conditions for international travel of children post-divorce.
A Florida court may “Order that a parent may not remove the child from this country without the notarized written permission of both parents or further court order;
Order that a parent may not take the child to a country that has not ratified or acceded to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction unless the other parent agrees in writing that the child may be taken to the country;
(d) Require a parent to surrender the passport of the child or require that:
1. The petitioner place the child’s name in the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program of the United States Department of State;
2. The respondent surrender to the court or the petitioner’s attorney any United States or foreign passport issued in the child’s name, including a passport issued in the name of both the parent and the child; and
3. The respondent not apply on behalf of the child for a new or replacement passport or visa; or
(e) Require that a party post bond or other security in an amount sufficient to serve as a financial deterrent to abduction, the proceeds of which may be used to pay the reasonable expenses of recovery of the child, including reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, if the child is abducted.” FLA. STAT. § 61.45(1)(b)
This is clearly an enormous tool-kit of safety measures a parent can request from the Florida courts if there is any concern about a parent removing a child from the country. The court can assess the facts and then put into place the appropriate measures to ensure safe international travel if any international travel at all.
The court can go so far to balance the need of a parent to visit the child and a parent to no abscond with the child to a foreign country that the court can order all visitation be supervised. “The court may impose conditions on the exercise of custody or visitation that limit visitation or require that visitation with the child by the respondent be supervised until the court finds that supervision is no longer necessary and orders the respondent to pay the costs of supervision.” FLA. STAT. § 61.45(3)(e)
The Hague Convention And Naples, Florida Courts
God forbid a child is removed from the country and the removing parent refuses to return the child despite the orders of the Florida courts. In such a horrific situation, the other parent can invoke the Hague Convention in the country where the child is currently located. The Hague Convention is a multi-lateral treaty between over a hundred countries to respect the custody agreements of their fellow nations. In these cases, your Florida lawyer will have to work with a lawyer in the other country to coordinate a Hague Convention petition to have the children returned to Florida.
To learn more about traveling with your children after a divorce contact my Naples, Florida law office for a free consultation with an experienced divorce attorney.