Understanding How Your Custody Agreement Applies When Traveling

If you share custody with your ex-spouse, this could affect any travel that you plan to do. This includes traveling for vacations and work. Based on the details of your custody agreement, you may be restricted as to where you can take your child. You may also have to notify your ex-spouse of your travel plans or obtain permission. Before you go anywhere with your child this summer break, review your parental rights and responsibilities under California’s custody laws. A San Diego child custody lawyer can help you plan accordingly. 

Local Travel

You typically do not need your ex-spouse’s permission to travel locally with your child if you share custody. As long as you are obeying the rules of your joint custody agreement, you have the right to take your child to a nearby city during days and nights when you have physical custody. 

Make sure, however, that you have your child back in time to adhere to the custody agreement. Your local travel plans cannot infringe upon the other parent’s scheduled time with your child. It is a good idea to factor vacations, holidays, and special events into your parenting time plan from the beginning if you know you wish to travel, to avoid conflicts down the road.

Travel Across State Lines

Look at the language of your custody order or parenting plan to determine if you need to obtain permission to travel out of state. For trips that will take you further away from your co-parent, you will generally need to obtain permission from the other parent or the court. This includes travel that takes you out of California.  

You will need to obtain a written Permission to Travel Form signed by the other parent before leaving the state. Get the permission slip notarized, if possible, to protect yourself. Without the other parent’s consent to the out-of-state travel, your only other option is to seek permission from the court. The court will analyze the situation to determine if taking the vacation is in the child’s best interests. 

International Travel

Whether or not you can travel internationally with a custody agreement depends on the language of the court order or parenting plan. If you have joint custody, you will typically need to obtain permission from your ex-spouse before taking your child out of the country. If you have sole legal and physical custody, however, permission may not be necessary. If you do need parental consent, your travel plans should be clearly documented for the other parent, including information such as:

  • The exact dates of your trip
  • Who you will be traveling with
  • Where you will be and for how long
  • A clear itinerary of each day of the trip
  • Flight or transportation information
  • Addresses and contact information for the duration of the trip
  • A secondary form of contact for everyone on the trip

When traveling to a different country with a minor child, bring your child’s permission to travel form, your child’s US passport, documentation that confirms your relationship to your child (especially if you have different last names), and any documents required by the foreign country. This may include your child’s birth certificate and legal custody documents.

Contact a Child Custody Attorney Before Traveling

Play it safe by consulting with a family lawyer in San Diego before traveling anywhere with your child if you share custody with your ex-spouse. A lawyer can read over your custody agreement to help you understand your responsibilities when taking your child out of the city, state or country. A lawyer can also help you enforce a custody order if your ex-spouse is attempting to travel with your child without permission.