A common problem of divorced parents with children: there is always a danger of child abduction. When one parent has ties to another country the problem becomes much more serious. If a child is removed from the USA, there may be difficulties retrieving the child.
First, the bad news. If a child has been issued a valid passport, the passport cannot be suspended or revoked by a court. There is no mechanism in place to alert the border authorities to a possible abduction.
A parent can take a child out of the country if that child has a valid passport.
Children with valid passports can be taken to any country. If the child was wrongfully taken, under limited circumstances a court has the authority to retrieve that child. There is an international treaty known as the Hague Convention. Countries that have signed the Hague Convention have agreed to a set of standards for the return of abducted children.
The following countries have signed the Hague Convention:
Argentina Australia Austria Belarus Belgium Bosnia and Herzegovina Brazil Bulgaria Canada Chile China, People’s Republic of Croatia Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France Georgia Germany Greece Hungary Iceland Ireland Israel Italy Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg Malta Mexico Monaco Netherlands New Zealand Norway Panama Paraguay Peru Poland Portugal Romania Serbia Slovakia Slovenia South Africa Spain Sri Lanka Sweden Switzerland The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Turkey Ukraine United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland United States of America Uruguay Venezuela
If you are in fear of your ex-spouse removing your child to another country, the best thing to do is petition the court to order a surrender of the child’s passport. You must have a realistic fear of an impending abduction. Many courts will seal the passport in the court file. Future requests to travel abroad with the child must be made in a court hearing.
For children that do not have a valid passport, there are several ways to safeguard the child. Either parent, whether a U.S. citizen or not, may apply for the U.S. passport for their minor child. However, the Two Parent Consent Law, effective July 2, 2001, requires that, for a child under the age of 14, both parents must consent to issuance, or the applying parent must document his/her sole authority to obtain a passport for the child. Thus, before a passport is issued for such a child, Passport Services will require evidence of one of the following: sole custody, a court order allowing the parent to travel with the child; a written statement under penalty of perjury that the other parent agrees to issuance or is unavailable, a termination of the other parent’s parental rights, or compelling humanitarian reasons relating to the welfare of the child.
A concerned parent may request may request the Office of Children’s Issues to place the child’s name in the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP) lookout system. Under this system, the Department of State will notify the requesting parent or attorney that a passport application is being filed for the child. In these cases, if the Department has on file a court order granting sole custody to one parent, or restricting the child’s travel, the passport would be denied.
The address is:
U.S. Department of State Office of Children’s Issues
Fourth Floor 2100 Pennsylvania Avenue
N.W. Washington, D.C. 20520
Phone: 1-888-407-4747 Fax: 1-202-736-9133
All requests must be in writing, and include the child’s full name, date of birth, place of birth, social security number, address, and phone number of the requester.