Children are not sofas — Part 2

The time of year is upon us when separated and divorced parents start contemplating summer vacations with their children. Therefore, Part 2 of “Children Are Not Sofas” will concentrate on some steps to take before any trips actually take place.

Anytime either parent wishes to travel alone with the children (out of the province/country), minimally, the other parent should be informed as to destination, duration, contact information such as phone numbers & hotel addresses, mode of transport. In some cases prior authorization has already been made part of a Judgment, yet one parent can still cause problems. Then a specific Court Order becomes necessary, particularly when you are not the custodial parent. Authorization is not to be unreasonably withheld and if it is you can contest it in Court – Please do not wait till the eve of departure to ask for Consent or Court order as you may find out the hard way that your expenses are not refundable! I advise always buying insurance in case of refusal by the other parent.

There are many modes and forms of consent but the best is always in written form. I have seen cases where a parent consents, verbally, to the other going to “visit” relatives only to learn after the fact that the other spouse never had any intention of returning with the children. Or the travelling parent is accused of kidnapping and without a written document it is hard to prove you had consent.

Travel Authorization Forms should set down the information already hi lighted above. You should remit the document to the other parent at least 2 months (or more) in advance and give them a fixed date to return the form signed –because if you end up needing a Court order to travel it is better for all concerned that the request be filed ASAP by you and your attorney. This may take a week, usually more, to prepare and file, and more still to obtain Judgment.

I am including page 1 of an 8 page International Travel Child Consent Agreement© prepared by the – I Care Foundation, headed by Peter Senese, attorney in the U.S.A. While this is a very comprehensive form, supported by the Secretary General of The Hague, there are other models which also work. For more information you can contact me. The form is available at: www.stopchildabduction.org

What is paramount is to commit all the details of the trip in writing in advance –and if travel is by plane, train or boat – attach a copy of the purchased ticket (s) with the agreement, along with the itinerary.

If the travelling spouse refuses to give you this information, you should not consent or sign the form, as anything to do with the children should not be done in secret (save surprise parties!).

You may also seek a Court Order to block a trip – for serious reasons, not simply because you don’t like your ex.! Or you can demand to have all the information the travelling parent is refusing to give, and in some cases a security deposit may be requested to cover legal fees in the event of a kidnapping. One thing sure – while it will cost you legal fees to obtain such orders, it will cost you significantly more to file an International Kidnapping Motion, and that is only IF you are lucky enough to know where your child is – and — IF the destination country is party to the Hague Convention (1980) on International Child Abduction.

This is just a brief overview of the complexities of The Hague Convention and the Travel Authorization Form – but being safe is always better than being sorry!

Me Hammerschmid is a practicing Family Law Attorney since 1982. Senior Partner at Hammerschmid & Associates, 1 Westmount Square, Suite 1290, and a founding and current member [past Secretary for 28 years] of The Family Law Association of Quebec. Frequent guest on CBC TV/Radio, CTV and CJAD on Family Law, Me Hammerschmid can be reached at [514] 846-1013 or hammerschmid@vif.com. Inquiries treated confidentially.

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