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International Travel and Child Custody over the Holidays

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International Travel- How a Paraprofessional Can Help

As the holiday season approaches, many families begin to plan for travel, but for divorced parents sharing custody, this time can bring additional considerations. At De Novo Law, we understand the complexities that arise when coordinating international travel with shared custody agreements.

 This article aims to shed light on the important implications and legal requirements that parents need to be aware of when planning international travel with their children during the holidays. From ensuring compliance with custody agreements to understanding the necessity of mutual consent and the legalities under Arizona law. Our goal is to help families enjoy their holiday travels while maintaining legal compliance and upholding the best interests of their children

We will cover the following topics:

Understanding Arizona’s Legal Framework for International Travel with Children

Understanding Arizona’s legal framework for international travel with children requires consideration of various custody arrangements, including sole custody, joint custody, and situations where parents have specific visitation rights. Here’s how the law applies in these different scenarios:

  1. Joint Custody: In joint custody situations, Arizona law, specifically ARS 25-408, necessitates at least forty-five days’ advance written notice before one parent can relocate the child outside the state or more than one hundred miles within the state. This requirement ensures that both parents have adequate time to discuss and potentially contest the relocation, with the child’s best interests as the central focus​​. 
  2. Sole Custody: For a parent with sole custody, the legal process may be less complicated, but the non-custodial parent still has rights that must be respected. Even in sole custody scenarios, the custodial parent is often required to provide notice to the non-custodial parent, especially if the non-custodial parent has visitation rights and the travel might interfere with these rights. The court will consider the child’s best interests and may require additional legal steps if the non-custodial parent objects to the travel plans​​.
  3. Non-Custodial Parent’s Rights: Non-custodial parents have the right to be informed of and consent to international travel, especially if it affects their visitation schedule. The custodial parent must provide details about the travel and obtain consent from the non-custodial parent, particularly for extended trips or those involving significant distances.
  4. Case Law Precedent: The case of Lehn v. Al-Thanayyan provides a pertinent example where the court had to balance the rights of both parents in an international context. The decision to require a substantial cash bond as a deterrent to potential child abduction in a non-Hague Convention country illustrates how Arizona courts approach these sensitive issues, prioritizing the child’s welfare and safety​​.
  5. Compliance with Court Orders and Agreements: Whether in joint or sole custody situations, any existing custody agreements or court orders must be respected. These may contain specific clauses about international travel. The court generally upholds these agreements unless there’s a compelling reason to alter them, always with the child’s best interests in mind​​.
  6. Best Interests of the Child: In all scenarios, the court’s primary consideration is the child’s best interests. Factors include the reasons for travel, the impact on the child’s stability and development, and the ability to maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents​​.

International Treaties and Their Impact on International Travel

International treaties, particularly those concerning child protection, have a profound impact on international travel involving children in shared custody scenarios.

The most significant of these is the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This treaty provides a legal mechanism to ensure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to or retained in another country.

It seeks to protect children from international abduction by a parent or guardian and ensures that custody rights established in one member country are recognized and respected in others.

For parents in shared custody arrangements, this means that international travel with their children requires careful legal consideration.

They must ensure that their travel plans do not violate custody agreements or the legal rights of the other parent as established in their home country.

Failure to adhere to these stipulations can lead to serious legal consequences, including international legal disputes under the Hague Convention.

The Convention also mandates that both parents typically need to consent to a child’s international travel.

This safeguard is designed to prevent one parent from unilaterally removing the child to another country, which could be deemed as international child abduction under the treaty. 

Legal Considerations for Emergency Situations Abroad

In shared custody situations, being prepared for emergencies during international travel is essential. Key considerations include:

  • Documentation Preparation: Ensure all legal documents like passports and consent forms are in order, and understand the destination country’s legal framework for emergencies.
  • Health Emergencies: Know your medical decision-making rights for your child and familiarize yourself with the local healthcare system and laws.
  • Dealing with Travel Restrictions: Stay informed about potential travel restrictions or political instability that could affect your return plans. Maintain contact with your home country’s embassy or consulate.
  • International Child Abduction: Be aware of the legal procedures under the Hague Convention for addressing wrongful child retention abroad.
  • Communication with the Non-Traveling Parent: Keep the non-traveling parent informed during emergencies, facilitating collaborative decision-making for the child’s welfare.

Effective preparation and understanding of these legal aspects can help navigate unexpected situations while prioritizing the child’s safety and well-being.

Can My Ex-Spouse Deny International Travel 

Yes, your ex-spouse can deny international travel with your child, especially in shared custody situations, and there are several reasons why this might happen:

  1. Custody Agreement Stipulations: If your custody agreement or court order includes specific clauses regarding international travel, your ex-spouse has the right to enforce these clauses. For instance, the agreement might require mutual consent for international travel, and if your ex-spouse does not consent, you would be unable to legally take the child abroad. 
  2. Safety Concerns: Your ex-spouse might have legitimate concerns about the child’s safety, especially if the travel destination is considered unsafe or if there are health concerns like a pandemic.
  3. Interference with Parenting Time: If the proposed travel interferes with the other parent’s scheduled parenting time or major life events, they may object to the travel.
  4. Risk of Abduction: In cases where there’s a fear of international child abduction, particularly if one parent has strong ties to another country, the other parent may legally deny permission for travel.
  5. Lack of Communication or Agreement: If the traveling parent fails to provide adequate information or disregards the importance of mutual agreement and communication, the non-traveling parent might deny consent.

If your ex-spouse denies consent for international travel and you believe the decision is unreasonable or not in the best interest of the child, you have legal options.

You may seek mediation to reach an agreement or, as a last resort, go to court to have a judge decide. The court will consider the child’s best interests, the reasons for the travel, and the reasons for the denial before making a decision.

Best Practices for Planning International Travel with Children in Shared Custody

Effective communication and proper documentation are essential components when a parent plans international travel with a child, especially in shared custody situations.

Firstly, communication should be open, clear, and initiated well in advance of the planned travel.

This allows both parents ample time to discuss, negotiate, and address any concerns related to the trip. The traveling parent should provide the non-traveling parent with a detailed itinerary, including flight schedules, accommodation details, and contact information for the duration of the trip. This transparency builds trust and ensures that the non-traveling parent is informed and comfortable with the travel arrangements.

Regarding documentation, several key pieces are necessary.

The most important is a notarized letter of consent from the non-traveling parent.

This document should explicitly state their permission for the specific travel plans, including the destinations and duration of the trip. It’s a crucial piece of documentation that may be required by airlines, immigration authorities, or in case of any legal disputes.

Additionally, the traveling parent should ensure that all travel documents, such as passports and visas for the child, are current and in order. If the custody agreement or court orders have specific clauses regarding international travel, it’s advisable to carry copies of these documents as well.

Parental Rights and Responsibilities During International Travel

In the context of international travel with children during shared custody, it’s essential for parents to comprehend and adhere to their rights and responsibilities as stipulated by Arizona law.

Parental Rights and Responsibilities:

  • Consent and Communication: The non-traveling parent generally has a right to be informed and consent to the travel plans. The traveling parent must obtain this consent, ideally in writing, to avoid legal issues such as allegations of child abduction.
  • Custody Agreement Compliance: Travel arrangements should align with the existing custody agreement or court order, respecting the other parent’s rights.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Open communication lines, including sharing travel details and contact information, are vital. Parents should also have a plan for emergencies.

Key Considerations:

  • Documentation: Carrying a notarized letter of consent from the non-traveling parent and ensuring all travel documents are in order is crucial.
  • Legal Implications: Traveling without the required consent can lead to serious legal repercussions, including accusations under international treaties like the Hague Convention.
  • Legal Advice: Consulting a family law attorney before traveling can provide valuable guidance and help ensure all legal requirements are met.

Understanding and respecting these aspects ensures that international travel with children in shared custody situations is conducted legally and smoothly, focusing on the children’s best interests.

Stephanie Villalobos, LP

How a Legal ParaProfessional Can Help?

Legal Paraprofessionals (LPs) at De Novo Law, such as Stephanie Villalobos with her extensive 30-year experience in the legal field, provide vital services in family law matters.

They are authorized to offer legal advice, represent clients in court for divorce, legal separation, child custody, and support issues, and negotiate settlements. Their role bridges the gap between a paralegal and an attorney, focusing on affordability and accessibility.

De Novo Law encourages individuals facing family law challenges to utilize their services, offering free one-on-one consultations.

For assistance, you can contact De Novo Law at (480) 725-2200 to arrange a consultation with a qualified legal paraprofessional.


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DISCLAIMER: The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice.  De Novo Law, LLC and its Legal Paraprofessionals are not attorneys and are not authorized to provide legal advice or representation beyond the areas and scope of practice for which license is held.  The transmission or receipt of any electronic correspondence or information does not create a legal paraprofessional-client relationship.


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