Child custody issues continue to dominate family court dockets for disputes over the right of each parent to spend time with their children in various activities. One of the most controversial issues is whether one of the parents in a shared custody arrangement can take a child out of the country on vacation, for example.
Traveling to another country, depending on its location and conditions, often involves extensive preparations. A passport and any required visas must be obtained for both child and parent. In addition, certain regions means the child may be required to get immunizations against serious diseases. The vaccines in themselves usually pose no serious risk to the child’s health, but a concerned parent may prefer for the child not to be vaccinated again exotic illnesses.
In addition, traveling overseas in unfamiliar areas may subject U.S. visitors to the potential for theft, assault, or child abduction. Anyone traveling in a new neighborhood or using a different public transportation mode needs to be informed and prepared for these risks, especially when taking a child along on the trip.
A worst case scenario is that the the parent who takes the child out of the country will disappear with the child in order to retain permanent custody or leave the child with friends or family members overseas to keep the child from the other parent. While this has been known to happen, it is uncommon.
Reassurances and protective measures can be instituted to provide for the child’s safety. For example, the child might be given a personal cell phone or iPad for convenient and frequent access to the other parent while traveling abroad. The parent who is taking the child out of the country could sign an agreement to return within a certain amount of time. A family law attorney can help with provisions like these.
Ideally, however, the bottom line is that both parents need to communicate clearly and honestly with each other about the child’s well-being. Hopefully they can build a level of trust that allows them to have meaningful activities with the child without trying to control or limit the other parent. If one of the parents has demonstrated instability with the child, additional measures may need to be considered as added protection.