The Impounding of Children's Passports During Divorce in Pennsylvania

By Kelly Mroz

During a divorce proceeding in Pennsylvania, one parent can take steps to deter the other parent from removing a child from the country. If the child does not yet have a passport, the parent can register to block issuance of a new passport. If the child already has a passport, the parent can ask the court to hold the passport during the divorce process.

During a divorce proceeding in Pennsylvania, one parent can take steps to deter the other parent from removing a child from the country. If the child does not yet have a passport, the parent can register to block issuance of a new passport. If the child already has a passport, the parent can ask the court to hold the passport during the divorce process.

Issuance of Passport to Minor

Federal law requires the consent of both parents before a passport can be issued to a child under age 16. To ensure a passport is not issued over the objection of a parent, the U.S. Department of State operates the Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program through its Office of Children's Issues. To participate, a parent requests that the child's name be entered into the alert program. The request must be made in writing, and the parent must submit documentation of the parental relationship and submit updated contact information to the Office of Children's Issues. Once the Office of Children's Issues receives the alert, the parent can block issuance of a child's passport.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Impounding Existing Passport

If a child already has a U.S. passport, the U.S. Department of State has no exit controls and so cannot stop a valid passport holder from leaving the country. However, state courts, including Pennsylvania, have the authority to seize and hold a minor's passport to prevent parental kidnapping. To ask the court to take such an action in Pennsylvania, a parent must file for custody in the divorce action so the court has authority over the minor child. Then the parent must file and serve a motion for special relief, asking the Pennsylvania divorce court to seize and hold the child's passport, explaining why such action is necessary. The court will require a good reason. If the court grants the relief and seizes the passport, the parent should notify the U.S. Department of State's Office of Children's Issues to prevent the other parent from claiming the passport was lost and obtaining a new one.

Other Prevention Measures

Seldom will a court hold a passport until the child reaches age 18. If the court refuses to hold a child's passport, or does so only for a limited time, a parent may be able to take other measures to help prevent international parental kidnapping. Of critical importance is to obtain a clear and specific custody order. Law enforcement can act more quickly and decisively if a parent is obviously violating a custody order. The custody order can also specify application of the terms of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This agreement was not signed by all countries, so this is only helpful if the child is removed to a participating country. In some cases, a parent can request that the custody order require a parent to post a bond to ensure timely return from international travel.

Dual Nationality

The situation is more challenging if the child is eligible for dual nationality. The alert system applies only to U.S. passports. If a child is eligible for a passport from another country, the application for that passport would not trigger any alerts through the U.S. Department of State. In the case of a child with dual nationality, check with the other country's embassy to see if preventative measures are available.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Do You Have to Have the Signature of a Divorced Spouse to Take Your Minor Child Out of the Country?

References

Related articles

Passport Held Due to Nonpayment of Child Support

In recent years, the Child Support Enforcement Program has added new penalties to the list of tools used to persuade parents to catch up on back child support. If you fall significantly behind in your child support payments, the privilege of international travel may be revoked by confiscation of your U.S. passport or denial of your passport application.

Rights for a Divorced Father When the Mother Wants to Move Away

Parents aren't always equal under the law. In many divorce cases, courts name one parent as the primary custodian of the children and grant the other parent visitation rights. When the custodial parent wants to relocate with the children, this necessarily affects the other parent’s visitation schedule if the move involves some geographical distance. When a non-custodial father is faced with such a situation, he has the right to object and get the court involved. However, judges’ positions regarding relocation issues vary widely from state to state.

Can Child Support Suspend Passports?

Following a divorce or failed relationship that produced a child, support is often ordered by the court. The noncustodial parent is required to contribute to the financial support for the child by making payments to the parent with custody. The United States Child Support Enforcement Program is a partnership between the federal, state, local and tribal governments that was created to make it easier for the difference government bodies to enforce child support payments. CSE uses several methods to force delinquent parents to make payments, including revoking your passport.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Divorce & Leaving the Country

A difficult issue that sometimes arises in divorce is travel abroad by one of the parties involved in the case. ...

Can a Spouse With Full Custody Leave the Country?

A parent with full custody has the authority to make many decisions on behalf of a child. However, a custodial parent's ...

Can Divorced Mothers Take Their Children Out of the Country?

If you have ties to another country, you may wish to take your child with you to visit. If you are divorced, the ...

Custody Rulings When a Parent Moves Abroad

Family court matters are litigated on the state level in the United States, so there are 50 different sets of laws to ...

Browse by category