The Child Custody Laws Relating to Traveling to Another State With Written Consent

By Rob Jennings J.D.

Mother and daughter on tour boat

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Adults are accustomed to traveling when and where they want. If you share custody of your child with the other parent, however, you may need his permission to travel out of state with your child. Taking your child across state lines in violation of a custody order could expose you to contempt of court charges and even charges of parental kidnapping.

Custody Order

Some people share custody of their children under a court order that addresses the issue of out-of-state travel. If the order allows it -- or doesn't prohibit it -- a parent can travel across state lines with the children. Look for restrictions, however, in orders that address leaving the state with the child. A common restriction in such an order is that you must obtain the other parent’s permission to take the kids out of state. You may want to to get the other parent’s permission in writing even if the order doesn't require it. If the custody order does not address leaving the state, obtaining the other parent's written consent could be helpful in case a dispute arises later. Keep any written consent in a safe place.

Court Order

Sometimes, custody orders specifically state that you cannot take your child out of state. If your order states that you can travel out of state with your child with the other parent’s permission and you cannot locate the other parent, you may have to ask for a permanent or temporary modification to the order that does away with the consent requirement. To modify an existing order, you'll need to file a motion with the court and provide notice of the motion and any scheduled hearing, along with copies of the court filing, to the other parent. Service -- the process of getting copies of a court pleading in the hands of the other spouse -- can be difficult with a party you can't locate, but your state's civil procedure code probably has a procedure for service by alternate methods.

While Traveling

When traveling out of state with your child, keeping the other parent informed of your itinerary can help ease tensions. If a parent does not abide by the terms of the court order or written permission of the other parent, the traveling parent could face civil or criminal penalties. A federal or state warrant may also be issued and the parent may face charges under the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act. The other parent will need to go to court or notify law enforcement to start this process.

No Custody Order

Sometimes parents want to travel out of state with their child, but custody is still pending or no order is in place. In this situation, it may be wise to seek the other parent's permission or court approval. Establishing a record of unilateral actions without consulting the other parent can make a judge think you won't be able to effectively co-parent with your child's other parent.