Traveling to different countries is an exciting adventure infused with learning and also unforeseeable circumstances. If you’re a parent sharing parenting time (custody) of your child, it can be challenging to reach an agreement on travel times and advanced planning by both parents. Planning the itinerary, flights, or travel, obtaining the right permissions, arranging passports, and ensuring your child is safe are critical aspects of international travel. Following are some tips about how to make international travel go smoothly when parents have shared parenting time (custody).

International Travel in Joint Custody SituationsReview Custody Agreements and Legal Requirements

Before embarking on any international travel, carefully review your custody agreement or court orders. These documents typically outline the rights and responsibilities of each parent, including provisions related to international travel. Familiarize yourself with any restrictions, notification requirements, and consent provisions that may be in place. Some agreements may require both parents’ consent or court approval before traveling abroad with the child.  And in your review, you may realize that you need to prepare a specifical permitting document for international travel. So getting ready in advance is imperative.

Communicate and Seek Consent

Respectful and reciprocal communication with the other parent is key when planning international travel when you share parenting time and joint legal decision-making.  You must inform the other parent well in advance about your travel plans, providing details such as travel dates, flight and other travel arrangements, destination periods, accommodations, and contact information. Be prepared to discuss how your child’s best interests will be maintained and attended to during the trip, including arrangements for their sleeping accommodations, their diet and nutrition, education, medical care, and safety and communication with the other parent.

If your custody agreement requires obtaining consent, make sure to secure written permission from the other parent. This consent should be clear and include relevant details about the trip. Keeping a record of all communication and consent can be helpful in case of future challenges and later disputes.

Prepare Necessary Travel Documentation

When traveling internationally with your child and you have joint parenting time (joint custody), ensure you have all the required travel documentation. These may include:

a) Valid passports: Ensure that both parents and the child have valid passports well in advance of the travel date. Check the expiration dates to ensure they will be valid throughout the trip.  Many a dispute has arisen between parents on who will safekeep the passport and then that parent may withhold that passport. This is not conducive to sharing your child and if a court order is required to turn over the passport attorney fees may be ordered against the parent who withheld the document.

b) Authorization letter: If required by your custody agreement or destination country, prepare a notarized authorization letter from the other parent granting permission for the child to travel internationally. This letter should include details such as travel dates, destination, and contact information of both parents.  If this becomes difficult, McMurdie Law & Mediation can prepare a letter for you at an hourly rate rather than a full retainer on a limited scope basis.

c) Visa requirements: Research visa requirements for the destination country and ensure that the child’s passport and necessary visa applications are completed accurately and submitted within the designated timeframe.

International Travel in Joint Custody Situationsd) Covid and vaccination requirements:  Most countries have relaxed the standards of covid and booster vaccines however you may be required to bring proof of your child’s vaccine or be prepared to take a covid test before departure and then possibly on arrival depending upon the country. Other vaccines are required or recommended depending upon where in the world you are going and this must be reviewed far in advance with your child’s doctor and the requirements of that particular country.

Keep Lines of Communication Open

Maintaining open lines of communication while abroad is crucial. Provide the other parent with your itinerary, including flight details, hotel contact information, and emergency phone numbers. Agree on a regular communication schedule to update the other parent about the child’s well-being during the trip.  Now, with our digital lives so expanded and international video calls, messaging apps, or emails is very affordable, it is expected on week or longer vacation to make phone accommodations for your child with the non-traveling parent.  This helps alleviate any concerns and ensures the child feels connected to both parents throughout the journey.

Prioritize the Child’s Well-being and Safety

While planning international travel, the primary focus should always be the child’s well-being and safety. Consider the following:

a) Health and medical care: Research and familiarize yourself with the healthcare system in the destination country. Ensure the child’s medical insurance covers international travel and carry a copy of their medical records and any necessary prescriptions.

b) Travel logistics: Plan the trip with the child’s comfort in mind. Consider factors such as flight duration, layovers, and adjusting to a new time zone. Make appropriate arrangements for transportation, accommodation, and meals, snacks and drinks to ensure the child’s needs are met.

c) Emergency preparedness: Identify emergency contact numbers in the destination country and have a contingency plan in place. Carry copies of important documents, such as passports, birth certificates, and medical records, in case of loss or emergencies.

Overseas travel in joint parenting and joint legal decision-making arrangements (joint custody) requires careful planning, effective communication, and a focus on the child’s well-being. By reviewing custody agreements, obtaining necessary permissions, and preparing the required documentation, parents can navigate the complexities of traveling abroad with their child. Open and respectful communication between both parents, along with regular updates during the trip, will help you maintain trust and ensure your child feels connected to both parents. Prioritizing your child’s health, safety, and comfort throughout the journey is paramount. With proper preparation and a child-centered approach, international travel can be a life-changing, super-charged educational adventure for your child and your family.

If you and your co-parent are unable to agree on travel plans, or you need permission letters or to get court authority, McMurdie Law & Mediation has provided exceptional family law representation and mediation since 1995 in Tempe and surrounding areas. Call 480-777-5500 to schedule a consultation today.