Do you think you need to give your permission for your child to leave the country? You could be wrong. Fathers—and mothers—have found out the hard way how easy it is for someone to disappear with a child.
The holidays are common times for international parental kidnapping to take place. Parents from other countries become homesick. Those with split custody may feel angry and upset if they’re supposed to spend the holidays alone. Sometimes they request permission to leave with the kids only to refuse to come home. Mostly though, they don’t bother asking. They pack a bag, get a passport and go.
So, What Can You Do?
There’s a very simple solution that won’t rock the boat with your ex without a reason. She won’t even know unless it becomes a problem. Enroll in the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP).
Your co-parent cannot take your child out of the country without a valid passport, and that’s not a document many parents get years in advance. If the CPIAP alerts you of a passport application in your child’s name, you can put safeties in place to keep your child in the country.
Wondering if your child has a passport already? You can use the U.S. Dept. of State’s Passport Application Status Tracker or call 877-487-2778 to check. You’ll need your child’s:
- Last name
- Birth date, and
- Last four digits of social security number
Your Ex Might Not Need Your Permission to Leave With Your Child
Unless you covered international travel plans in your parenting agreement, your ex might not need your permission before leaving the country with your child. Don’t have an agreement in place? Then she doesn’t even have to ask.
Instead, you’ll need a court order saying your child can’t leave the country. Fortunately, in many jurisdictions, you won’t need a lawyer to file one. For instance, New York family lawyer Sonya Witt told CBS New York:
“You don’t need a lawyer. Anyone can go to family court and file an emergency motion. It’s known as an Order to Show Cause. You can often get in front of a judge the same day and ask for the court to issue an order that says the child should not be taken out of the country…”
Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best With a Parental Kidnap Prevention Kit
In her book They’re Your Kids Too: The Single Father’s Guide to Defending Your Fatherhood in a Broken Family Law System, father’s rights attorney Anne P. Mitchell gives suggestions for all parents, just in case the worst happens. If your child is kidnapped, doing the following will help find and identify them whether the offender was a co-parent or not.
You’ll want to keep two copies of these items handy to hand one off to the authorities. While it might seem overwhelming to compile, the time it saves in locating your child can mean all the difference in the world. Some of this information won’t be available if you’re already separated from your co-parent, but gather what you can from the following:
- Recent photos of your child and your co-parent
- Lists of scars, tattoos and other physically identifying information
- Two sets of your child’s fingerprints
- Passport, social security and license information (numbers, issuance and expiry dates, country or state of issuance)
- Car information (color, make, model, license plate number, VIN)
- Bank and investment account information
- Credit card numbers
- Tangible assets like jewelry or musical equipment
As explained in They’re Your Kids Too, Mitchell wrote:
“In this situation, time is truly of the essence. For example, if your co-parent is attempting to leave the country, having his or her passport and identifying information quickly enough may enable the authorities to put a ‘flag’ on their passport in the State Department’s computer, keeping them from being able to leave the country with your child.”
Safeguard your rights to see your kids this season by taking a few simple steps “just in case.” Preparing for the worst while hoping and expecting the best co-parenting relationship possible leads to happier resolutions for everyone when problems occur.