As a divorce lawyer on Long Island, you might be surprised at the myriad issues we have to consider when drafting Divorce, Settlement and Separation Agreements for our Clients. One of these includes the possibility of abduction of a child by a former spouse.
Many people remember the Sally Field movie “Not Without My Daughter”, where a family traveled to Iran under the pretense of visiting the husband’s family, only to find out they would never be permitted to return to the United States without his consent. Now imagine your ex-spouse taking your child on an international vacation, and you being told two weeks later that your spouse and child intend to reside in Italy or Portugal for the rest of their lives. What would you do? Would you even know where to begin or who to seek assistance from? As divorce lawyers on Long Island, these are the types of things we think about when drafting Settlement or Separation Agreements for couples seeking a divorce.
Are There Any Preventative Measures?
When drafting a Stipulation of Settlement or Separation Agreement in a Long Island, NY divorce, the issue of passports and international travel should be addressed. As of 2002, the consent of both parents is required before the state may issue a passport for a minor child under the age of 14. Therefore, if your child does not yet have a passport as of the date of your stipulation or separation agreement and he or she is under 14, your spouse will need to show he or she has sole custody of the child or your written consent to the issuance of the passport for the child.
If you have severe concerns your spouse may abduct the child, it is obviously in your best interest to withhold this consent. However, many settlement or separation agreements contain language giving both parents the authority to apply for a passport on behalf of the child. Be mindful of such language if you have these concerns.
Put Your Fears in Writing
United States law enforcement does not have the power to prevent a parent with a valid United States passport from traveling out of the country with his or her child who also has a valid United States passport. Therefore, if you wish to prevent your spouse from applying for a passport for your child, it would be important to discuss with your Long Island divorce attorney language representing that fact.
Your agreement may include a statement indicating that the child may only be permitted to travel internationally upon the written consent of both parents, or that the passport may not be obtained unless both parents are present at its issuance. You may also ask your attorney to include a provision which completely prohibits international travel, or that the courts hold the child’s passport. While none of these are foolproof methods, they will help you combat the threat of international abduction as you will have a larger degree of control over your child’s international travel.
Get the Full Travel Itinerary for Your Child
On the other hand, if you do not wish to prohibit your child’s international travel either at all or completely, you may ask that your agreement include language requiring your spouse to provide you with an itinerary of any trips he or she may have planned. For example, your Long Island divorce lawyer may include statements which require your spouse to provide you with flight information, including times, dates, and numbers, the location and phone number of all accommodations, and the time period they will be staying in each location if further travel is planned. The international travel may be conditioned upon your receipt of this information. This permits you to be aware of your child’s whereabouts at all times while overseas, and to alert you if something is not as it was presented.
Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program
Another key preventative measure is provided by the government itself. The United States Department of State has created the “Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program.” Parents have the option to enroll their child, so long as he or she is under 18 years old, in this program. Once enrolled, you will be notified upon the submission of a United States passport application on behalf of the child. If your child already has a United States passport, enrollment will serve to notify you if there has been an application to renew the passport. The completed form should be submitted to PreventAbduction@state.gov.
Compassionate Long Island Divorce Attorney Has Answers to Child Abduction Concerns
If you have concerns about your child traveling out of the country with your ex-spouse, you should contact an experienced Long Island divorce attorney immediately. The experienced and compassionate divorce attorneys at Robert E. Hornberger, Esq. P.C. have helped hundreds of Long Island couples protect their rights and their children. Contact us today at 631-923-1910 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced Long Island divorce attorney.