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Traveling internationally with children after a separation

Concern about international child abductions by parents—especially those with families outside the United States—has made travelling alone with your children outside the U.S. a much more difficult process.

No country wants to be caught in the middle of a custody war that's using the border as a weapon. If you plan to travel outside the U.S. with your minor child this spring or summer now that you're separated or divorced, this is what you need to keep in mind.

-- The rules vary a bit from one country to the next, and they're prone to frequent changes. Use the U.S. Department of State's Passports & International Travel website to find out exactly what documentation your host country requires.

-- At a minimum, you need to make sure that your child is carrying his or her original birth certificate showing relationship to you along with his or her passport.

-- If you share custody, you need a notarized letter of permission from the other parent acknowledging that he or she knows about the travel and consents to it, along with the dates you expect to be gone. It should be in the language of the country you are visiting (for example, Spanish, if you are heading to Mexico) or have a translation attached. Make sure that the other parent's contact information is on there and try to keep the other parent informed about when you will be crossing the border, just in case.

-- If you have full custody, you need to have your original custody decree, giving you the right to travel without getting the other parent's agreement.

-- If you are still in the middle of a custody dispute, keep in mind that just crossing state lines with your child without permission could be considered a felony abduction. Crossing international lines would be worse because it would make you a fugitive in two countries. Get permission from either your spouse or the court to make the trip or stay home.

An attorney can provide more advice on how to travel abroad this coming spring or summer without jeopardizing your child custody or your freedom.

Source: USA Today, "Do I Need an Agreement From My Husband When I Am Traveling With My Son?," Rita Kennedy, accessed Feb. 17, 2017

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