It is not unusual for families to enjoy traveling outside of Texas and even outside of the United States to vacation or visit extended family. Passport requirements to do so are not new, and most people are familiar with the required document.
When parents divorce, however, the right to simply buy a ticket and use passports to take a trip with the children is not always so simple. There are often legal impediments in place to ensure the custody arrangement permits any out of country travel.
Texas courts can order handing over child’s passport
According to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, the Texas family courts have the right to order a parent to hand over the child’s passport to the court. Moreover, the state court can retain that book for the duration it believes it needs to prevent a removal of the child from the U.S. in contravention of any court order of custody.
When a court orders the surrender of the passport, the Office of Children’s Issues should be notified, which will help thwart any later attempt by a parent to try to obtain a new passport for the child despite the prohibiting order. In addition, a parent with a court order or an attorney can ask the DOS to abide by the court order’s intent regarding travel of the child by refusing issuance of a child passport.
Either parent can request information about the child’s passport status from the DOS. It may be wise to do so prior to planning a trip, purchasing tickets or arranging hotel accommodations to be sure the parent and child are not in for an unpleasant surprise later.
Passport restrictions exist when abduction is a risk
Texas law provides for restrictions on child passports under certain circumstances, particularly if there is reason to believe a parent may seek to abduct the child. While the restrictions that can occur with regard to traveling outside of the U.S. can seem burdensome, they may help prevent child abductions to places where the Texas family court has little power to enforce a custody order.
If a divorced parent needs to travel with the child out of the country, there are smart steps to take when arriving at a custody and possession order. Taking care of such details early on can best ensure there will be no hiccups to the child’s freedom to travel.