How To Travel or Live Abroad With Kids When Your Ex Says NO!

“Yes Officer, I DO have permission
to travel with my children”.

Getting Permission to travel or live abroad long term with kids
Me with my three kids at some random airport waiting for our next flight (2012).

So you want to travel or live abroad with your kids and expose them to other cultures but your ex is saying “NO WAY”.  What do you do? Here is my personal story of how I was able to get permission to travel and then to live abroad with my kids despite my ex-husband (the father of my 2 sons) FIGHTING ME TOOTH AND NAIL. It wasn’t easy but it can be done.

Travelling When One Parent Is Not Present.

If you have kids and want to travel internationally without the other parent, you are supposed to have written permission from the other parent.  Without written permission, you run the risk of getting denied entry into that other country.

But what happens when the other parent refuses to write you a letter giving you permission? Even between the US and Canada.

Our Routine Flight To Montreal

In 2010, I flew into Montreal like I’ve done so many times before with two minor differences.

I only had 2 of my 3 children with me and my husband Blake was not with me. Blake and my eldest son were driving a moving truck across the country towards some tiny storage unit somewhere in Massachusetts.

I exited the plane with my son and daughter and promptly walked to the immigration and customs area to wait in line to get our passports stamped.  When it was our turn, I handed the customs agent our passports.

He immediately took them and furrowed his eyebrows as if he were straining to read our names.

He looked up at us, then back at our passports and back at us and did this a few more times

No Big deal, I expected this scrutiny since I was ONE ADULT flying with kids and no father in sight.

Travelling is more complicated for us

To make matters worse, in addition to me flying alone with my children, it’s not immediately apparent that I am the children’s mother because we have three different last names. 

If you haven’t guessed yet, I have a blended family.

We Have Three Different Last Names

FIRST NAME: My name is Annie Andre. Andre is my maiden name that I’ve kept on all my documents.

SECOND NAME: I’ve remarried and my daughter and my husband have the same last name.

THIRD NAME: My two sons are from a previous marriage over a decade ago and they have my ex-husbands last name. It doesn’t help that one of my son’s first name is my last name ( “ANDRE”). I digress!

 Papers Please!

I’m used to carrying documents showing that I have permission to travel with my sons.

95% of the time, I am never asked for proof that I have permission to take my boys out of the country but today was one of those rare occasions. However the passport agent only asked  me to show my “permission slip” to travel with my daughter and NOT my son.  Okaaaaay?

I smiled and pulled out my proof:

  1. Handwritten note from my husband Blake which gave me permission to travel with Catherine. (It’s recommended you get this notarized but mine is not)
  2. My daughters birth certificate which showed Blake and I were her parents.
  3. A photocopy of Blake’s Passport for good measure. 

Hypothetically speaking, had the passport agent asked me for proof that I had permission to travel with my son,  I would have handed him a COURT ORDER  which allows me to travel freely with my two boys.

You’ll notice, I did not have a written letter of consent from my ex husband, I had a court order. I’ll explain why and how I got this court order in a moment.

“Welcome Back to Canada”.

Then the border police stamped our passport and off we went to my family’s house in Montreal.

How I Got Permission To Travel Abroad: Travel NOT LIVE

A few years ago, Blake and I decided to elope to Europe and take our daughter and my two sons with. It was just a month long trip.

I really thought my EX would agree to let me to take the boys with us to Europe. After all, it was only a month and it was for my wedding.  I really wanted it to be a family thing with us and the kids.

No amount of pleading, begging or bribing could persuade my ex into writing a letter to give me permission to travel with the boys.

I really wanted the boys to be part of the ceremony, so rather than just rolling over and leaving the boys behind, I took my ex to court and big surprise “I won”.

It was rather silly.I suppose the judge could see that my ex was trying to be difficult because he ordered him to sign all the documents so that I could apply for passports to travel abroad with the kids until the boys turned 18.

The judge also gave me permission to travel anywhere in the US and Canada and internationally without written permission from my ex  as long as I tell him our itinerary.

It was this COURT ORDER I used on the day I went to Montreal with my kids and it’s what I carry with me when I travel anywhere for short visits like vacations.

But what if I want to spend more time abroad? What if I want to live abroad or spend up to a year abroad travelling with my kids? 

Eloped: Intermission

In case you were wondering, we spent 3 1/2 weeks in Paris and then flew to Edinburgh Scotland to have a small civil ceremony on July 14th which happens to be Bastille day.

Here are some photos. CHEEEEEEEEEEEZE. I’m so glad we took the boys with us. It just would not have been the same without them.

This is us moments before the deed is done

Blake and I after the civil ceremony in Edinburgh. One of my sons is the photographer.

The kids hanging out at Edinburgh Castle.

The boys re-enacting the battle of Langside where Mary Queen of Scotts was defeated.


I had permission to travel and visit other countries with the boys but not permission to LIVE abroad.  

Right now, as I write these words, I am living in France with my husband Blake and 3 children.

The COURT ORDER that I obtained for travelling with my boys ( which I mentioned above) was not valid for “LIVING” in another country.  I could stay in Europe as a tourist with my family for 90 days but I wanted to live there for a year legally and immerse the kids in French culture which meant sending them to School.

For that I needed a special visa called the “LONG STAY VISA” which gave us the right to send our kids to school and stay legally in the country for one year not 90 days. 

Travel and Live are two different concepts and the French Embassy required that I either get written permission from my ex that clearly stated I could “LIVE” in France with my two sons or a court order showing that I can “LIVE” in France.

I called up my ex and explained to him what I wanted to do.

Parents send their kids abroad for a year of study all the time. I wanted my children to experience a year abroad but I wanted to be there with them. I hoped that my ex would be okay with the kids spending a year abroad. He was but not with the idea of me being there with them.


Again, no amount of pleading, begging, no agreement I came up with was good enough for him and he would not write me a letter giving me and the boys permission to live abroad.

So again I petitioned the court to intervene and decide.

SIDEBARNow before you jump on my back about taking the boys away from their birth father let me first say that  my situation may be very different from yours.

Obviously since I am writing this while living in France, the judge granted me permission to LIVE in France with my boys.

You Are Not Guaranteed Court Approval

Just because you take your ex to court does not guarantee you will win. In my case my ex did not have a very good track record as a parent.

There were a lot of variables that worked in our favour. The bad economy and the fact that my husband and I could not find jobs in our field. The educational opportunity for the boys and the fact that we would and could be home for the kids after school.

But there was one big variable which may shock many of my friends who knew me and my ex because I have not told anyone but family and close friends about this because of fear of retaliation from my EX.

In my opinion, my ex’s LACK of involvement and lack of assistance weighed heavily on the judge’s ruling to allow us to travel.

  • Rarely Saw the boys: My ex rarely saw the boys. On two separate occasions I had to pay him and his sister to baby-sit for me. ( I finally found a sitter so I could have a break once a month).
  • Endangerment: Once, he was supposed to take one of my sons for 30 days in the summer but I was called by his then girlfriend  after 15 days to come and pick my son up because my ex was too drunk to take care of him.
  • Lack of Support:My ex went 8 years without paying me a dime of child support while receiving wages from working under the table before the courts finally took action and required proof that he was looking for a job. A real job.Now his pay-checks are automatically deducted and I get child support but he will never catch up on all the back child support that is owed to me and the boys unless he works until he is 80 +years old.

I could go on, but you get the picture right? 

The Court Process:

I’ll briefly explain the court process that I went through.

At the time, I was living in Montreal and my ex was in California. I called up the lawyer I used before and asked her to file a new petition to allow me to take the kids abroad.

I did not even have to fly to California. I was on the phone for the entire court proceeding. I could hear my ex presenting his case. My lawyer was present in California on my behalf. It lasted 20 minutes at most and then the judge made his ruling and I was allowed to LIVE in France for not one but TWO years with the boys.

So How Do You Get YOUR Court Order?

Before you go and try to get a court order to travel with your kids, I strongly advise you to speak with your ex first and try to draw up an agreement. It’s not only the best way to do it, it will also cost you less money leaving you with more money for your family.

But if your ex does not want to give you permission and you have your heart set on travelling or spending a year abroad like us then you’ll have to go to court.


I hired a family law lawyer. Each time I used my lawyer it cost between 1,500 and 2,000 dollars.

The lawyer I used was in the Santa Clara County of California since that is where I lived with my kids and that is where our custody agreement is. I did nothing else but search on the Internet for a family law lawyer who handled child custody and modification agreements. Then i just called them and found the one I liked. ( I called 3).

You don’t need to hire a lawyer. You could file your own documents:

I talked with several parents who did NOT hire a lawyer. They filled out and filed their own documents and you can do this too.

Go to your local family court house and ask if they have free legal advice service or people on hand who can help you choose the correct documents and also help you fill out the paperwork.

Once your documents are filled out, you file them and wait for your court date. In addition to filing my court docs,  I wrote a very wordy document about why I wanted to take the boys and why it benefited them. I wrote a little bit about how much or little my ex was involved in my boys life. There is no format for this.  I just winged it and wrote from the heart.

That’s It. 


Just to summarize here are the documents you should travel with.

I spoke with several parents who travel internationally or live abroad with kids (alone). Some people I spoke with don’t even get permission from their ex. They just chance it. Others didn’t even know that they were supposed to have written permission.  So technically you could always chance it and go without written permission.

Personally, I wouldn’t chance it..

You never know when you will be asked to produce documentation. So here is what I recommend you travel with..

  • Always travel with a letter from the other parent. It should give you permission to travel wit the kids and it should be dated and signed. Many government sites say that the letter should be notarized but so far I have only used NON notarized documents.
  • I  Also bring a copy of my child’s birth certificate which shows who the parents are. I have a friend (Talon, a single dad )who adopted his son and on the birth certificate it only shows him as the father the mother area is left blank so he doesn’t need to show any other documentation. Although he did say that he travels with the adoption papers just in case but that no one has even asked him to show any proof of the mothers permission.
  • A copy of your spouse or the other parents ID. Preferably a passport if you can manage. I have a copy of my husbands but not my ex.

Here is a link to the Canadian site with a link to a blank letter for you to fill out. Here is the link to the U.S. site stating the requirements.

If you can’t get a letter of approval than you will have to get a court order like i did. Be very careful of the wording you use in the court order.

Will you travel with the kids on vacations? Will you live abroad for a year? What countries? Will you travel nomadically during a period of time? For how long? What about the kids education? Health Insurance? How will they communicate with the other parent while abroad?

These are all things I had to consider and answer and you may need to do the same for your court order.

Reading Books In Berlin: Prenzlauer_Berg

The Kids Do A Lot Of Reading and Learning On The Road

ps: I wanted to add one thing. 

Not many people know this story including my friends. I think a lot of them will be very shocked to find out about this private matter.

I was going to keep it private but I think and I hope in the least that my transparency and my struggles will inspire and empower other single parents and blended families not to fear un-cooperative ex spouses.  I always advocate amicable relationships with ex’s but that’s just not always possible is it? You have to do what is best for the kids and that is what I did.

FINAL THOUGHTS: You Don’t Have To Agree With Me

I realize there may be some of you who disagree with the idea of travelling and living abroad with kids. You are entitled to that opinion.

I lived abroad and travelled a lot as a child and I am so grateful my parents gave me that opportunity. So much so that I want to give my kids the same gift that I received.

My kids are experiencing other cultures and seeing the way other people live first hand not to mention the fact that they are fluent in French now.

These are all things they would normally do and see in a classroom or some textbook but are getting to experience first hand. Plus they are learning to be more  creative which makes for better problem solvers who can adapt better to change in this world.

It took a lot of sacrifice on my part and my husbands part to take the kids abroad but it’s totally worth it.

I would love to know your thoughts? Leave your comments below.

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About the Author

Annie André was born in Thailand to a Thai mother and French Canadian father. She knew from an early age that she was meant to experience the world first hand. By the time she was 23, she had visited over 20 countries including a 3 year stint in Japan. Currently she lives in the south of France with her husband Blake and three children who attend French schools.


I’m super late to this, but I’m starting to think of moving abroad now.
My daughter’s father has been granted supervised visitation (that’s how great of a father he is) and currently sees her for two hours every fortnight. I’ve been thinking about moving from Australia to the UK – it’s been a long term dream of mine. I am university educated and can almost walk into a job over there.

I resent that this despicable human pays no child support and is not even so much as deemed capable of parenting her without supervision for an hour, still has such control over my life. I’m not sure what the courts will say here- I don’t know about in Canada, but in oz if you want to move more than roughly four hours away you need a court order. I have her passport already but I know that if I want to move for a long period I’ll need his permission… Although I hate his guts, I know it’s important for my daughter to see her dad and am not trying to be spiteful- the thought of not being able to fulfil any of my dreams until I am much older brings me to tears. This post gave me a glimmer of hope, so thank you.

    Annie Andre

    Hi Bella,
    I understand your predicament. i dont know Australian law but I am sure it must be a little similar to US and Canadian laws. Your move has to be in the best interest of the child even if the dad needs supervised visits the courts may not see this as enough of a reason to allow you to take your child out of country unless…. perhaps you are moving for other reasons which may benefit your child. In our case as i stated in my article, we were both laid off and their was a huge recession and no jobs. Our goal was to give our children a second language and courts took all this into consideration including the fact that the father did not pay child support and that he rarely saw my children.

    Good luck to you, you have nothing to lose if you talk to a lawyer even if only for an hour or two consultation…
    Annie André recently posted..11 Things You Need To Know Before You Take A Road Trip In FranceMy Profile


      im in a bit more challenging situation…
      left an abusive/violent relationship…common-law relationship…we had a son together he is now 13 months…
      im in the process of retaining a family lawyer and file for custody etc,,,
      in the meantime…
      would like to travel…
      my mother is going to italy and i would like my son to meet his grandfather and great grand parents…(also extend family)
      …there is no court order at the moment…no separation papers…
      i would like to travel for 2 months this summer…
      any suggestions…?
      if he gives me a hard time about travelling, which I’m sure he will…
      what can i do…?
      can the court grant me permission to travel for 2 months?
      what can i do? thanks for your help.


Glad that you still made it with the kids.. It can be a great source of information for people divorced and want to travel with the kids all the way.. the process is hard if one of the parent doesn’t agree. Anyways, cheers to the information :)
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Hi Annie, I just read your article and loved it. I’m
Going through some stuff right now with my ex and would like your opinion. I live in Canada and I have a daughter with my ex boyfriend. We were never married. I was planning on moving 8 hours away but my ex is taking me to court. And I talked to my lawyer and she basically said I can’t move unless I leave my child behind with my ex. I’m just wondering about the future, what if I get married and have children with my now boyfriend? Will they still not let me move?? Should I chance asking the court to move and see what happens? I’m just worried they will give custody to my ex because apparently neither of us have custody because we had nothing in writing saying that. Just wondering what you would do???

Macky Blaise

Im inspired reading your blog. It is true that your sacrifice is not in vain.


I have a job a career and a four year old daughter. I want to move to america with my daughter. I am not happy in marriage and i know he will not agree to give me divorce or my daughter. How can i leave without his approval? And get a better life for my daughter and i?

    Annie Andre

    Hello Ema,
    I dont know that any advice i give you will help you. I am not a lawyer. i do not advocate leaving a country and taking your children away from their other biological parent unless it truly will benefit the child. Honestly if the father and the courts dont give you permission i dont see how you can leave. Not knowing your situation i would say you need to consult a lawyer and or at least talk to the father. Good luck to you
    Annie André recently posted..Ascension Day In France. What Is It And What Do People Do?My Profile

David Lutz

Great post. It seems like you are destined to see the world first hand. Even though the ex is an obstacle, you can still make your dreams a reality.


You crack me up! You went to Europe “only for 1 month”.

No wonder the French hate Americans.


Hi Annie,

I live in the U.S. I’m still married to the father of my child (unfortunately). We have not started our separation proceedings yet. I want to visit my family for 7 weeks this summer, and he does not want our daughter to go. What are my options since we are still married? Could I still get a court order if necessary?

All the best to you,


I enjoyed reading your article. I am in the exact same situation but opposite as I am a “single” mother with a 4 year old boy. I am getting married and my fiancé is French but a US Citizen. We are moving to the US in September for all the reasons you mention. I am currently trying to make a formal agreement with my son’s father and at the same time asking my situation to be legalized in court. (Very rare visits, no support, dangerous behaviours… you know the story…) Wish me luck and enjoy your stay if you are still in France! (I did not check the date of your article, I am frantically browsing for advices…)

    Annie Andre

    Good luck Celine. it is very hard but can be done specially if it is in the best interest of the children.


Thank you for writing about your experiences with your ex. I am having a lot of trouble with my ex about traveling with our daughter. He does see her every other weekend and pays support so I can’t say he doesn’t have some role in her life. However, I am married to a Canadian (now a U.S. citizen) and we do try to go back to his home to visit. Not only that, I have a best friend in Australia that I love to visit and my daughter and I have tickets to go, leaving Sunday. Therein is the problem I’m having today. My ex did sign a permission letter and it is notarized. However, he’s tried for days now to talk her out of going and he’s got her so confused she doesn’t know what to do – it all boils down to her not wanting to make anyone mad or unhappy. Sigh. He’s harrassed me several times about the fact that I travel and actually fly on a plane (gasp!). I’ve told her she can choose whatever makes her happy but I have said I’d love it if she goes with me. We don’t travel that much, she and I, and only in the summer because that’s when I’m off (I teach) so it’s not like we’re jetting all over the place all the time. Do you think it worth my time to pursue the court ordered permission to travel since he’s giving me fits about taking her anywhere? I’m just so tired of his shenanigans, even more so the stress he’s putting her through. SIGH.

    Annie Andre

    I think you already know what i am going to tell you and that is…
    YES, i especially think it is worth it in your case. My ex used to give me a hard time even when i would go from California to Fresno nevada to take the boys skiing. it was some weird power struggle which he claimed was his RIGHT to dictate since i was travelling out of state. The courts may give you permission but they might not to travel anytime you like. You just need to be able to proove that he is harassing you or making it hard to travel. Once you can prove that the judge will most likely let give you an order to travel freely within reason. i.E; you cant leave for months on end or live in another country but you can go for family and yearly vacations.

    So at leasst try to get a court order. once my order was in place; i felt so relieved. No more horrible battles with my ex. no more fighting tooth and nail to go on simple vacations. It was sheer bliss and the boys benefited because i was not a basket case.
    Annie André recently posted..15 Funny French Expressions Involving Farm Animals And Bugs That Don’t Make Sense To English Speakers But Will Make You Sound Like A Native!My Profile


Bonjour Annie ,
je viens de te lire et ton histoire m a touché personellement . De notre côté c est une bataille doublement difficile. Je suis canadienne , j ai marié un americain nous avons une fille et mon mari avait un fils deja que j ai élevé depuis quil est bébé car sa mère biologique était en prison .Elle est libre depuis 1 an maintenant et elle ne s occupe pas plus de son fils … elle profite et manipule le systeme par jalousie . Chaque mois nous allons en court pour differentes raisons . Nous devons nous battre ardement afin de proteger notre petit homme qui souffre énormément dans tout ca. Nous avons recement obtenu un ordre de la court nous permettant de voyager avec lui au canada . Donc , nous partirons enfin en vacance prochainement … elle a tente a tout prix d empecher le voyage en nous mettant des batons dans les roues … elle tente tout les coups possibles . Ma question est celle ci … peut elle appeler les douanes et creer des problemes meme si le juge lui a obliger de signer ou peut elle faire probleme a mon mari un coup rendu au canada en appelant l embassade et dire que l on a kidnapper le petit ? Jimagine quils ont qu a verifier ? Nous esperons des vacances sans stress car elle nous cause beaucoup de maux de tetes et de problemes alors je tente de me rassurer … ton histoire est inspirante bravo !

love viet

happy family, i enjoyed reading your article, your kids so cute :)



I am in a similar situation. In 2007, I wanted to vacation in the US for 10 days with my son. My ex who had on a previous vacation given me written consent, refused to allow me to bring my son because he had found out that I was in a serious relationship (with my current husband) just to spite me. How stupid it is for a parent to take out their frustrations on the mother of their child just to piss her off. As if they have the best interest of the child at heart.

Fast forward, I was not about to have that pos tell me where I can or can’t travel with my son, so I took him to court. 4000.00$ legal fees later, the judge granted me permission to travel anywhere in the world without his consent and ask for my son’s passport alone. Allow me to add, that since 2008 we have no news of his whereabouts. He owes me over 10000.00$ in back and current child support and brought him to small claims court to reimburse me for the legal fees he forced me to acquire when I asked him to travel with my son. I won the case their too. Nonetheless, since he is no where to be found, I will never see a penny of that 4000$ back either. But seeing as he owes me a nice chunk of change, I suspect this keeps him at bay where ever he is. He never came to pick up or see my son after I left him (he cheated on me when my son was 1 year old).

We are now scheduled to travel for three weeks in Europe. I requested to renew my son’s passport one month ago, but Passport Canada is lolly gagging. The same day I was to receive his passport, they called me requesting legal documents pertaining back to 2004. What the hell. These papers in question only stipulate child support payments. Passport Canada seem to completely disregard the current court order that clearly stipulates that I can ask for a passport alone. I can’t believe the unnecessary stress they are creating and time is passing by with our departure date soon at our steps.

I would have never though that I would have so much trouble doing the right thing, the legal way, while my ex seems to be living the good life, not paying his dues, creating havoc without lifting a finger. I wonder if Passport Canada issued him passport despite him owing so much money. Go figure ! My son is now 13 years old, thankfully next time around, he will be able to request a passport as an adult.

Life is unfair and being a police officer myself, I often question on what side of the law some of these government officials work for. I never took any chances when travelling with my kids and don’t want to risk having to turn around and screwing up a vacation for anyone. I have always done the right thing and spent a lot of unnecessary money in making sure my son experienced fond memories in his travels.

Kudos to our federal government for giving a hard time to honest people while other dead beats laugh in our faces.


Hi….oh goodness please tell me I have hope!
I have two children aged 6 and 8 in South Africa, my divorce is joint custody even though we live in different provinces. My fiancé is British and just cant get work in South Africa so has gone back to UK. I sent an email to my ex asking for permission to please take the children with as not only is it safer there future would be a hole lot brighter. Naturally he replied NO I WONT GIVE PERMISSION…this is not to try spite anyone I simply am torn in the middle my love overseas where we could start a safter and most cost effective life and my children who I cant leave. Is there anyway I can get court to motivate this so I can take them


Hi Annie,

I came across your article today when my son’s father would not sign a consent letter or passport forms to travel to B.C. From Toronto for 10 days. I want my son to know my side of the family as I am a single Mom. He started saying he wanted an invitation from my Uncle whom I was going to see, and to speak to him on the phone. I haven’t had a seizure for 2 years I’m epileptic as well. In our court order, I have joint custody with my ex, myself being the primary caregiver. My son lives with me. His father has visitation every Sunday however meets visits every other weekend. Not the point however…as of July 2014 either parent can travel with my son and consent is to not be unreasonably withheld. I am giving him permission to take my son to Morocco for 2 weeks but he doesn’t want to sign a consent form for us. He started telling me to swear on my son I haven’t had a seizure in 2 years. I haven’t so there is no need to make stories. He was telling me he has close friends who told him I had. Please…
Anyway I’m thinking on Monday to consult a lawyer just to get a court order for travel to save myself some stress and headache and feeling like I am being policed on what should be a vacation and stress free time…


Here’s a new one for you… I am divorced and remarried. I have lived in a different state from my ex since our divorce (14 years now) Our court orders state that I determine primary residence despite geographic location. Not only do I have her passport that he gave permission for, but a notarized letter from him giving permission for her to live in the UK for the next three years. Her visa has been issued and is in my possession.

He has decided that if I do NOT give him more visitation now, he is going to call the state department and rescind his permission. He has even told her he would have me arrested and put in jail (I assume because he would say I kidnapped her).

I thought I covered all of my bases and have even called my lawyer (again…). His visitations would not change other than length and cost of flights. Our dtr is almost 16. She doesn’t even want to see him due to his alcoholism and abusive relationship with his current spouse.

We are excited for the opportunities living abroad will present even though the reason for the move is due to my husbands job relocation.


Wow..congratulations Annie. working that hard for the welfare of the children calls for dedication and love, qualities that most mother’s out there lack. And thanks for teaching us a few things as well.
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