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Have you verified your child's vacation with your ex-spouse?

School is out and summer vacation is upon us which, for a lot of families, means the opportunity to take family vacations to other states or even other countries. If you're divorced or separated, however, you may need to do a little more planning before going on your next family trip.

That's because divorced and separated parents must abide by the terms of their child custody agreement. In many cases, these agreements can have specific language regarding vacations, specifically regarding domestic or international travel. If a travelling parent doesn't get permission from the other parent, a vacation could quickly turn into a case of parental kidnapping.

What is parental kidnapping?

Parental kidnapping, also called familial kidnapping, refers to the act of one parent taking a child or children to another state or country with the intention of remaining in the new location. Oftentimes, parents do this in the hope that the new jurisdiction will offer a new custody arrangement that is more in the kidnapping parent's favor.

Fortunately, much of the legal system doesn't condone this underhanded behavior.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA)

In cases where one parent flees to another state without the other parent's permission, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) apply. These acts were signed and adopted by every state in the U.S. by 1981.

The main purpose of these two laws is to honor family law decisions made in other states as well as award jurisdiction to the state in which the court order was determined. In essence, these two laws discourage interstate kidnapping.

The Hague Convention

If a parent flees with the children to another country, it's not uncommon for left-behind parents to feel at a loss or worry about seeing their children again. That's because in cases of international parental kidnapping, parents have to contend with foreign jurisdictions that may disagree with one another on how to resolve matters.

Thanks to the Hague Convention, however, much of this concern is unnecessary.

The Hague Convention is a treaty between signatory nations that guarantees the cooperation between foreign governments in child custody cases. Often cited in international parental kidnapping cases, the Hague Convention provides a procedure for dealing with international child custody disputes, oftentimes awarding jurisdiction to the country from which the child retained habitual residency.

What should traveling parents keep in mind this summer?

To lessen the likelihood of a domestic or international parental kidnapping incident, it's important for divorced or separated parents to double check the terms of their child custody agreement before traveling to other states or countries.

Parents should also make sure to get the other parent's expressed permission --preferably in writing -- to travel with the child. Written permission documents should include as much detail as possible, including departure and return dates, which can be used as evidence should allegations of parental kidnapping be filed and legal actions taken.

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