A surprisingly hot topic after divorce is the issue of children’s passports. If parties settle their divorce and enter into a settlement agreement typically the issue of vacations has been resolved. Of course, there are always the cases that aren’t resolved through settlement and are litigated. Issues surrounding children’s passports arise in both settled cases and litigated cases. Whether or not the children should have passports? And if they do have passports – Which parent should hold the passports?
As a starting point the only way the United States government will issue a passport to a minor whose parents have joint legal custody is if both parents are in agreement. This means either both parents show up at the passport agency; or one parent must show up with a signed Statement of Consent from the other parent. If one party in the divorce refuses to allow a child to obtain a passport then the parent desiring the child to have a passport has to make an application to the family court compelling the non-consenting parent to sign a Statement of Consent. If a parent cannot be located there is a separate form that can be completed for the passport agency – a Statement of Exigent/Special Family Circumstances. Children younger than 16 must have the consent of at least one parent. Children 16 or over can apply without a parent, but may not necessarily be approved without at least proof of parental awareness being provided.
There are many reasons divorced parents object to children obtaining passports and traveling overseas with the other parent. One reason is fear that the other parent will take the children out of the country and not return them. Depending on the facts of the case this may be a reasonable fear. Another concern is whether or not the vacationing parent can be trusted to keep the children safe in a foreign country. A common complaint is also that the vacationing parent is trying to bribe the children with expensive vacations that the other parent might not be able to afford.
If you have any questions regarding divorce and children’s passports please feel free to call our firm at (908) 259-6565.