Legal Rights for Taking Children Abroad

••• children image by Asparuh Stoyanov from

Although there are no federal laws prohibiting a parent from taking a child out of the country, there are strict regulations for obtaining a minor's passport, which cannot be done without both parents consent. Besides this, there is also U.S. legislation that makes it a criminal offense to take a child out of state if there is a court order prohibiting the parent from doing so. When such an order is in place, the parent wishing to travel with the children must obtain the consent of every person who is a guardian of the child.

Court Order

Contract the services of a family law attorney who can help you obtain a court order preventing an ex-spouse from taking a child out of the state. If this court order is in place, then the traveling parent must get written permission from the other parent or guardian to take the child out of the country.If a court order that prevents a parent from taking the child out of state is not in place, then the parent does not need permission to take the child out of the country. However, this is also dependent on the child having the appropriate U.S. passport.

Department of State Alert Program

Contact the U.S. Department of State at 1-888-407-4747 and ask about the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert program. In this program a legal guardian or parent can submit a letter requesting the Department of State to notify them if someone requests a passport for your children. To qualify for this program you must submit a child’s birth certificate and show that you are the parent or legal guardian. Once the State Department has this information and if a passport is solicited, you will be notified, and the passport request will be denied.

U.S. Passport Requirements

Although it may not be against the law to take children out of the country if there is not a state court order in place, children under age 16 must have a U.S. passport to travel abroad, and obtaining a child passport requires the photos of both parents, proper parental ID, and parental consent.

Child Abduction Laws

The Child Abduction and Enforcement of Custody Orders Act of 1991 also prevents foreign parents from abducting children and you should consult with a family law attorney to make sure preventative measures are in place if you suspect this possibility. Once a child has been taken abroad, there are limits to the help U.S. authorities can provide parents in an international child custody dispute. When an American child is taken by a foreign parent, the U.S. government can help the American parent locate the child and monitor his welfare. They can also provide information on child custody laws and procedures in the country and offer a U.S. passport if the child appears at the embassy. If you are afraid the parent is taking the child out of the country permanently, then it is best to contact a family law attorney to get a court order prohibiting the parent from taking the child out of the state.