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Joint Custody & Passports for Children

It is a difficult feat to obtain a passport for a minor under 16 if one parent, who has joint legal custody with the other, refuses to cooperate. This has become a common issue especially at a time when families routinely travel internationally. Unfortunately, and sadly, the parent refusing to cooperate is typically doing so simply to exert control over the other. So, when faced with this road block, what may a parent do?

The easiest way to obtain a passport for a minor under the age of 16 is for both parents to appear together with the child to submit the application, or if 1 parent is unable to appear, he/she may submit a consent form (DS-3053). But, if that is not possible, there are some options in the family law context:

  1. File a motion with the court requesting that the court issue an order specifically permitting the applying parent to apply for the child’s passport without the other parent’s consent.
  2. File a motion to modify legal custody and convince the court to grant that request.
  3. The applying parent may submit a signed statement (DS-5525) of special circumstances as to why the other parent’s consent cannot be obtained.

All 3 options are time consuming, especially option 2, which is why it is important to plan out the approach well in advance of scheduled travel. Typically, once a completed application is submitted, the routine turnaround at the Department of State is 4-6 weeks. In addition, options 1 and 2 may be costly because these are steps best to be taken with the assistance of an attorney.

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