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Passport Battles in International Family Law

Tonight's post about passport battles was written by one of our Atlanta International Family Law Attorneys, Dina Khismatulina.

Spring is almost in the air. The weather threatens to get nicer every day. It is time to start planning summer vacations. That is probably why we have seen many new clients who need help applying for passports for their children.

Normally, applying for a passport for a minor is a fast and painless procedure that does not require legal assistance: fill out an application, pay the fees and bring and the minor with you. Not complicated, right? Wrong - for many, many parents.

The federal government has strict and important rules intended to prevent international child abductions. According to the rules, both parents have to appear and apply in person for a passport for a child under 16 or submit a notarized written consent from the parent who cannot apply in person.

While fighting international child abduction is essential (we do that all the time), it is equally important to help sole parents or parents with sole custody fight for their rights. These parents cannot travel abroad with their children or send them to an international summer camp or even to study abroad for a short time because the other parent refuses to sign a consent for the passport application. 

This burden is solely carried by the custodial parent, despite the fact that, according to FBI statistics, in the majority of parental abduction cases it is the non-custodial parent who abducts their own child.  

The "both parents applying" rule hurts the custodial parent the most. They have to jump through additional procedural hoops, even though the other parent is absolutely or essentially absent from their child's life. Even if the non-custodial parent has never seen the child and has no custody rights but is listed on a child's birth certificate, it is very difficult for the custodial parent to obtain a passport applying solo without legal assistance.

There are two ways we help parents in situations like this in International Family Law. We help them collect and assemble documentary evidence and present it to passport services to prove that the person applying is either a sole parent, or a sole custodian, or that there are special family circumstances that make it extremely difficult for one of the parents to apply for a passport.  Secondly, we obtain a court order that specifies that the custodial parent can obtain a passport for the child on their own and can travel with his or her child internationally.

So, do not give up on your summer plans just yet. Get that passport, but start the process in plenty of time before bon voyage!

Dina Khismatulina

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