Is your ex refusing to sign a child travel consent form? Wondering how you can move abroad without his or her consent? Here’s how I obtained a court order giving me permission to do both despite my ex-husband fighting me tooth and nail. It wasn’t easy, but it can be done under special circumstances.
Travelling With Children When The Other Parent Is Not Present
I hope my transparency will inspire and empower other single parents and blended families not to fear un-cooperative ex-spouses whose only motivation is revenge, punishing you and making your life miserable.
To all you single parents or blended families, if you’re reading this and hoping to get step-by-step directions on how you can travel internationally or move abroad without the father’s or mother’s permission, I want to make sure you understand a couple of things.
Always put your children first.
I don’t advocate, endorse or encourage travelling internationally or moving abroad without the other parent’s consent. Always try to find some middle ground and come to an amicable agreement first, which you should get in writing.
Unfortunately, that’s not always possible.
I was able to get permission to travel internationally with my children and later live abroad because of what occurred over the course of several years leading up to my 3 court hearings. Those years were some of the most stressful times of my life. I was mentally harassed and bullied for years by my ex, not just for travel but for mundane everyday things.
- Just because you take your ex to court does not guarantee you will win.
- In every scenario, there’s always a winner and a loser. The loser might be you.
Why You Need A Child Travel Consent Form
If you travel internationally with a child under 16 and the other parent is not present, you should always be prepared to show proof of permission in the form of a letter from the other parent (and supporting documents.) Without written permission, you run the risk of getting denied entry into that other country.
These rules are mainly to prevent problems with child custody disputes, kidnapping, and illegal trafficking of children.
But what do you do if the other parent refuses to write you a letter permitting you to travel abroad with your children?
This is the long and windy road I took to obtain a court order granting me permission to travel internationally with my children and later move abroad without needing permission from my ex-husband.
Our Routine Flight To Montreal
In 2010, I boarded a plane from San Francisco, California and flew to Montreal like I did almost every year. This is where my family lives.
I was with two of my three children; my daughter and son, who were 3 and 12 years old, respectively. My third and eldest child was with my husband transporting what was left of our belongings in a Uhaul truck across the country to a self-storage unit.
They would meet up with us in Montreal later, where we would live for an undetermined amount of time.
“Papers Please!” said the grumpy looking customs officer.
We landed at the Montreal airport, exited the plane and promptly walked to the immigration and customs area to wait in line.
When it was our turn, the customs agent took our passports, looked at us, then back down at our passports and furrowed his eyebrows as if he were straining to read our names.
Customs officer: “Are these your children?”
Me: Yes, they are!
I was flying solo with two children, neither of whom share my last name, and no father in sight.
Travelling is more complicated for us
It’s complicated travelling with my children because we are a blended family with three last names.
- Me: My last name is André, it’s my maiden name and the name I have listed on all my documents.
- Husband and daughter: My youngest daughter and husband have the same last name.
- Two sons: My two sons are from a previous marriage and they have my ex-husband’s last name. To make matters worse, one of my sons has my maiden name “Andre” as his first name.
I made this trip many times, so I was prepared to show the customs agent all the necessary documents a parent needs when flying alone with minor children. 75% of the time, no one ever asks for proof, but today was one of those rare occasions.
My travel consent documents included the following:
Travel documents for my daughter:
- A handwritten letter of consent from my husband Blake, permitting me to travel with our daughter. (It’s recommended you get this notarized but mine was not)
It says something like: “I acknowledge that my son/daughter is travelling outside the country with [the name of the adult] with my permission.”
- My daughter’s birth certificate, which showed Blake and I were her parents. (remember, I use my maiden name, different than my daughter and husband).
- A photocopy of Blake’s Passport for good measure.
Travel documents for my son:
I didn’t have a written letter of consent from my ex-husband to travel internationally with my son because my ex refused to give me permission to travel to Canada to see my family. I couldn’t even take my boys on short weekend getaways without him threatening to call the police on me.
Instead, I had two Court orders.
- The first court order allowed me to travel internationally anywhere in the world with either of my sons (who were from a previous marriage).
- The second court order gave me the authority to live in Canada or the east coast USA.
I obtained these two court orders at two separate times. Both allowed me to bypass my ex altogether whenever I wanted to travel with my son’s. I’ll explain why and how I got my court orders in a moment.
“Welcome Back to Canada,” said the smiling customs agent.
The border police stamped our passports, and off we went to Mamie’s house.
How I got a court order permitting my children to travel internationally with me without my ex’s permission
First, I need to give you a little back story, so bear with me.
When Blake and I got together, we both agreed we didn’t want to get remarried, but that changed after our daughter was born.
Neither of us wanted a big wedding, so I thought why not elope to Europe with all three children. A kind of family elopement followed by a family honeymoon. The plan was to elope to Scotland and honeymoon in Paris.
If you’re interested, here’s how you can elope and get married in Scotland too.
Nothing is ever easy with a vengeful ex.
Months before Blake and I were scheduled to elope to Scotland with the kids, I called my ex-husband to let him know about our plans and ask him to write us a letter giving me permission to take the boys out of the country.
Blake and I thought for sure my ex would be on board.
Instead, he refused to give me permission to take the boys and gave us no explanation as to why.
No amount of pleading, begging or bribing could persuade my ex into agreeing to write this simple letter. That’s all it really was, after all, a single sheet of paper with his name and a sentence or two statings, “I, so and so, give Annie permission to travel to Europe” during these dates with our two sons.
To say that Blake and I were flabbergasted and disappointed by my ex’s refusal to cooperate is an understatement.
In 2007, I took my ex to court! And I won!
After a few weeks of ranting, I didn’t have a lot of choices.
- Take the boys to Europe without written permission and risk getting turned away.
- Elope with Blake, take our daughter but leave the boys behind.
- Take my ex-husband to court and fight it out.
The obvious choice was to take my ex to court.
Long story short, my ex tried to make a case for why I shouldn’t be allowed to take my boys to Europe to attend my marriage.
I made my case about why I should be able to take them.
It was pretty much a slam dunk for me. Judges usually let parents travel with children unless the trip presents some sort of danger- such as a war zone. I also think that judges look at travel as beneficial to children unless there is proof that they should not travel with the other parent.
Since we were only travelling to Europe to get married, the judge granted us permission to take them with us, and to this day, I still have no idea why my ex refused to sign a letter of consent for the boys to travel with us.
The judge not only granted me permission to take the boys abroad for 30 days; he gave me a court order to travel anywhere in the US, Canada and internationally without ever having to ask for written permission from my ex again.
I just needed to carry the court order with me when I travelled and let my ex know our travel dates.
By refusing to give me a letter of consent and forcing me to take him to court, my ex unwittingly made my life a whole lot easier—no more fighting with my ex.
It was the biggest relief of my life.
It was this first COURT ORDER I carried with me whenever I travelled with my sons. That little piece of paper gave me so much peace of mind.
How to get a court order for a child’s passport
One last thing about my court order.
I mentioned to the judge that I needed my ex’s signature to renew our son’s passports and that I had brought the passport application and a notary with me that day. Normally, you need two signatures to renew a child’s passport.
To my surprise, the judge added an extra clause allowing me to renew all future passports for my sons with only one signature. I didn’t even know this was possible.
TIP: how to get a child passport with one parent absent
If you have sole custody of your child or a court order like the one I described above, these documents are usually all you’ll need when applying for a new passport or renewing your child’s passport.
If you don’t have either of these documents, some countries have special forms for obtaining a minor child’s passport with one parent absent.
- For example, in the US, form ds3503 is a consent form the absent parent must sign and notarize to give to the parent applying, who then submits this form with the minor child’s application. This is assuming your ex is cooperative.
- The US also has form dr5525, which is for special circumstances such as when the other parent can’t be found, is in jail, etc. However, you must provide all supporting documents.
How I got permission to live abroad
For anyone new to my blog, I moved to France in October of 2011 and obtained a court order to do so. This was a two-prong process that wasn’t planned.
You might be interested in reading: 50 Crazy Interesting Facts About France That’ll Blow Your Mind
Fast forward a few years after I received my first court order from the courts to travel with my boys internationally.
Blake and I were still living in Silicon Valley, and we were both laid off from our jobs and unemployed for an extended period of time.
Blake and I had been saving for years, and we each had severance packages, but our cash was dwindling fast. If you’re familiar with Silicon Valley, you know that it’s extremely expensive to live there.
Blake and I made the bold decision to cut our losses and move to the east coast, where the cost of living was lower and to be closer to both of our families.
Blake’s family was on the east coast in the US, and my family was in Quebec, Canada.
But first, we had to get my ex’s permission again.
As expected, my ex DID NOT want to grant us permission, and I understand why, but our backs were up against the wall due to financial reasons, and I felt we had a strong case.
First, we went to court to get permission to move across the country.
Once again, the judge heard each of our arguments:
I presented my case and the math in a worst-case scenario. We could last 5 times longer on the east coast with no jobs than if we stayed put in Silicon valley. At that point and time in California, people were losing their homes, leaving the state or lining up to become baristas after being a VP of some high tech company. It was a recession with far-reaching effects.
My ex-husband presented his case. One of his arguments was that he couldn’t go to Canada because he couldn’t obtain a passport. His passport was revoked because he was several years behind on his child support. Obviously, not being able to get a passport because your behind on child support didn’t make a very good impression on the judge, or at least I like to think so.
In the end, the judge granted us permission to move to the east coast either in the US or to Canada.
One year later: We never intended to move to France, but shit happens.
One year after leaving California, we still had a hard time finding jobs. We were living at my aunt’s house in Montreal while looking for jobs. It was getting really depressing, and I thought this could go on for another year.
That’s when I thought, let’s stop looking for jobs, wait out the bad economy and take a Family gap year abroad. We would return and look for jobs once the economy recovered.
There was only one problem. I had to ask for my ex’s permission AGAIN!
We went to court for the third time to get permission to move to France.
The first COURT ORDER I obtained only granted permission to travel with my boys as a tourist. This meant I could stay in Europe as a tourist with my husband and children for 90 days because that’s how long a tourist visa lasts in most of the EU and Schengen Area.
Anything longer than 90 days required a “LONG STAY VISA,” which gave us the right to send our kids to school in France and legally live in France for one full year abroad. For that, I needed my ex’s signature or court order.
I called my ex and asked him if he would be ok with the boys spending a year in France where they would attend French public schools.
To my surprise, he was kind of ok with the idea “at first.” Then he found out my husband, and I were going with the boys, and just like that, he wasn’t ok with it anymore. Go figure.
I made every effort to come up with a mutually beneficial agreement, including flying the boys out to him during the holidays at my expense, but my ex shot them all down.
I could have given up, but I decided to let the courts decide if I should have the right to take our boys to France for one year or not.
I included a detailed letter with my court documents stating why I wanted to take the boys to live in France and how it benefited them. I also wrote a bit about how little my ex was involved in my boy’s life since they were born, how he made it difficult to do the simplest of things.
There was no format for this letter; I just winged it and wrote from the heart.
The judge granted us our third court order, which allowed us to take the boys to live in France.
My advice if you want to take your children to live abroad or travel internationally.
1) Keep a journal and write it all down.
I highly advise you to keep a journal and write down EVERYTHING. Things get murky after the fact. This journal will be invaluable if you need to take your child’s father or mother to court.
Some of the things I put in my journal were:
- Every time my ex didn’t pick up my children on his scheduled visitation dates. For me, this was 90 percent of the time.
- Calculation and percentage of the time my ex actually saw our children.
- Dates and recordings of threatening or intimidating phone calls.
- A brief description of any incident where the other parent was unreasonable or bullying. This happened every time I wanted to take the boys anywhere on vacation, even to Canada to see my family.
- Any time the boys told me strange stories of something that happened at their father’s house.
2) Going to court should be the last resort.
Before you attempt to get a court order to travel internationally with your kids or move abroad, I strongly advise you to speak with your ex first and come to an agreement in writing. Not only is it less expensive, but it’s also more amicable. If that doesn’t work, and you feel it’s in the child’s best interest, then maybe taking the other parent to court is your only recourse.
My ex didn’t want to make any concessions, he didn’t want to cooperate, and in the end, he lost total control over me.
Keeping my journal helped me present an organized case and helped me remember all the facts.
3) Do what’s in the best interest of your child(ren).
Is the other parent a total jerk to you, bullying you or intimidating you? Well, that’s probably not a good enough reason for a judge to grant you permission to take your children and move to another country.
Is the other parent a bad parent? If so, how, and can you prove it? Just because the other parent lets the kids stay up till midnight, eating ice cream is not a good enough reason to call them a bad parent. Just because the other parent is an asshole to you is not a good enough reason either.
Even if you’re sure it’s in the best interest to move abroad with your children, does it outweigh the benefit of staying put so the children can be near the other parent?
These are all things I had to prove in court, which I did with supporting documents and proof.
How to stop your ex from taking the kids and moving abroad.
Are you a non-custodial parent trying to stop your ex from moving out of the country with your children without your permission?
Here’s is my advice; don’t do what my ex did. All of these things will work in your favour should your ex ever try to take you to court.
1) See your children regularly:
Had my ex been more present in our son’s lives, had he been a father figure, he might have had more leverage in our court hearings, but that wasn’t the case.
My ex rarely saw our sons. After the divorce, I took care of 100 percent of their daily needs, night and day every day, almost 365 days of the year.
I even ended up paying my ex and another time his sister to watch my boys for a weekend so that I could get a break. I couldn’t afford to hire a proper baby sitter at the time. I was a single mom, working all day, taking care of two small boys receiving no child support.
Moving across the country or to the other side of the planet wasn’t going to really change the amount of time my ex spent with his children, and I think this is one of the many reasons I won all my court cases against my ex.
2) Don’t miss your scheduled visitation dates with your children:
This goes back to my first point, if you’re supposed to take your children every other weekend, then do it and plan your life accordingly. It not only shows you’re a responsible parent, but it’s what’s best for the children.
My Ex had scheduled times when he was supposed to take our boys, but he rarely exercised that right. This does not look good in court or to your children.
3) Don’t endanger your children:
Your children’s safety, both physical and mental, are extremely important.
Endangering your child, either through neglect or trauma, isn’t going to work in your favour.
On one occasion, my ex was supposed to take one of my sons for 30 days in the summer. I can’t remember why he didn’t take both. In any case, I was thrilled to get the break. It was the first time he took either of the boys for an extended period of time.
That excitement was short-lived when his then-girlfriend called me after 14 days to come and pick my son, who said my ex was getting drunk nightly, and she didn’t think he could take care of our son.
4) Support your children financially:
Supporting your children is extremely important. The money you pay for support to your ex helps support your children.
My ex went eight years without paying me a dime of child support while receiving wages from working under the table. Needless to say, this also doesn’t bode well in a courtroom. Plus, the court system will eventually catch up with you, and you’ll have to pay back child support with interest, which may get deducted automatically from all future paychecks.
5) Be a good parent and put your children’s needs first:
I had to think long and hard about moving abroad with the boys. Was it really better for them? Would they benefit from it? I also had to look at the negatives.
The answer to these questions will be unique to you and your situation.
In my situation, I tried to do everything by the book. The last thing I wanted was to give my ex any ammunition to use against me. I always made every effort to follow our court order.
One of my biggest arguments for moving abroad was the bad economy and educational opportunity. Plus, my husband and I would be home 100 percent for the boys as opposed to both parents working until 6 or 7 pm every night worked in our favour and the boy’s favour.
6) Don’t take out your anger and frustration on your ex.
My ex did a lot of shady things as well as things to spite me—all of which I documented and used in court against him.
Do yourself a favour and take the high road.
The Court Process: A brief explanation of the process
For my first court appearance, I was living in California, and I appeared in person.
For my second court hearing, I was living in Montreal. I didn’t have to fly back to California on my court date. My lawyer was present in California on my behalf. I dialled into the courthouse and made my case, and so did my ex. The whole thing lasted 20 minutes at most, and then the judge made his ruling granting me permission to LIVE in France for not one but TWO years with the boys.
I hired a family law lawyer, but you may be able to file your own documents.
Maybe you live in a country where you can file your own documents. Your local courts may even offer free legal advice or service to help you fill out the court documents.
You Don’t Have To Agree With Me
I realize some may disagree with the idea of getting a court order to travel internationally with children or to move abroad with the kids by obtaining a court order. You’re entitled to your opinions.
I sleep just fine at night, knowing I did what was in the best interest of my children.