Can Divorced Mothers Take Their Children Out of the Country?

By Ciele Edwards

If you have ties to another country, you may wish to take your child with you to visit. If you are divorced, the custody arrangement to which you and your former spouse adhere determines what steps you must take before leaving the country with your child. The United States Department of Justice notes that because foreign laws often differ considerably from U.S. law, international parental abductions are harder to resolve. Placing restrictions on international travel with children – even for the custodial parent – helps prevent these abductions from occurring.

Travel Consent

Before making arrangements to leave the country, check your custody decree. According to the U.S. Department of State, some custody decrees contain restrictions or criteria you must meet before traveling internationally with your child. If you disregard the requirements noted in the custody decree, you could be arrested and charged with kidnapping. While all custody agreements differ, a divorced mother must generally obtain written permission from the child's father before taking the child out of the country.

Sole Custody

In some cases, a divorced mother has sole custody of her children. A mother with sole custody has the right to make all major decisions about the child's welfare without consulting with her ex-husband. This includes deciding whether or not to travel internationally with her child. A divorced mother must be able to prove sole custody at the border by providing court documents noting this fact or, if her ex-husband is deceased, a copy of his death certificate.

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


U.S. Law requires the signatures of both parents on a child's passport application. If a child's father objects to the child's mother traveling internationally with the child, he can prevent the child from leaving the country by refusing to sign for the child's passport. If the child's health is at stake, the Secretary of State has the authority to grant a passport to a child even if the father objects. A divorced mother with sole custody does not need permission from her ex-husband to obtain a passport for her child.


If a divorced mother intends to permanently relocate to another country with her child and she lacks sole custody, she must typically obtain the court's permission before doing so. The court will evaluate the circumstances surrounding the move and a judge will decide if the move is in the child's best interests. The American Bar Association notes that any country that signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction treaty will immediately return an abducted child to the United States if his parent removed him from the United States without the court's permission. A total of 45 countries adhere to the Hague Convention treaty.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Does a Minor With Divorced Parents Need Permission From Both Parents to Exit the Country?



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. Divorcing parents may also contend over the removal of a child out of the country. Moving abroad does not prevent divorce; eventually the divorce will be granted. If one of the parties has moved abroad and does not return, the court will generally approve the marital settlement agreement as presented by the petitioner. If both parties leave before the hearing, the court will close the case. The parties will have to petition to reopen the case on returning, or simply file a new divorce action.

What Are Parental Rights in a Divorce?

Parental rights can change drastically during divorce proceedings. Before the court issues a custody order, you and your spouse maintain equal rights to care for your child on a daily basis and make major decisions regarding your child's health and welfare. Once a judge issues a temporary or permanent child custody order in a divorce, the court order establishes each parent's parental rights and responsibilities. These rights traditionally include legal custody and physical custody of a child.

Medical Power of Attorney for Child Care

A medical power of attorney for child care is used to give another person the legal right to make medical decisions on your behalf for your child. The medical decisions authorized by the power of attorney can include both preventive and emergency treatment. However, the medical power of attorney does not give another person the right to make any non-medical parental decisions.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Do You Have to Have the Signature of a Divorced Spouse to Take Your Minor Child Out of the Country?

A divorced parent may want to take a child on trips and vacations outside the United States without the other parent's ...

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 ...

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 ...

How to Legally Change a Child's Last Name in Texas

The Texas Family Code contains the regulations that outline the conditions of changing the name of a minor in the ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED