A fairly common situation separated or divorced parents will have to face at some point in any shared parenting plan is consenting to have your child(ren) travel to a foreign jurisdiction. It is easy to imagine the following; your ex-partner and/or joint guardian of your child(ren) tells you he/she is wanting to take the child(ren) on a vacation for a few weeks to an exotic destination overseas. He/she has already purchased the plane tickets and paid for the hotel and resort. They come to you and provide a full itinerary including such things as; travel dates, airlines, stop-overs, rental agreements for any vehicles, hotel/resort info. including room number(s), has purchased extended health coverage, and lets you know of all appropriate contact persons in case of emergency. All they ask is that you agree to sign the child’s passport renewal documents and provide them with a short signed letter stating that you, the joint-guardian, agree they may take the child(ren) on vacation as planned. Fast forward two weeks; you’re waiting at the airport to meet the child(ren) as their arrival coincides with the start of your week of Parenting Time. They never arrive. Instant panic.
Apart from the obvious; contacting the airline, following up on the information provided in the itinerary that was given to you, calling the police and waiting to file a report ~ what else should you be looking at? As a lawyer who deals with international mobility cases, one of the factors I advise clients to consider is whether or not the country being travelled to is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, or ‘Hague Abduction Convention’. This document is a multilateral treaty developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) that provides an expeditious method to return a child internationally abducted by a parent from one member country to another. Another consideration is the type of law practiced in the foreign jurisdiction at play. For example, countries who are members of the Commonwealth of Nations tend to practice a similar law to what we have in Canada and typically any high court(s) decisions here can be argued as part of any submissions or applications there as well. We can do that because this is most often a jurisdiction that follows what is known as the ‘common law’ standard. However, there are plenty of foreign jurisdictions where the ‘common law’ does not apply, One example I dealt with recently was where Sharia law was the prevailing standard. In such cases, vastly difference considerations come into play such as, cultural and gender norms and standards. In other cases, the pervasiveness of corruption and its influence on the function of administrative bodies is something which can’t be ignored.
So the next time you’re asked by the ex-partner or joint guardian of your child(ren) to consent to a passport application and/or to provide a consent letter for travel abroad, make sure you contact one of our lawyers at Hart Legal to know exactly what you are agreeing to first. Remember, even the most innocent looking of request could dramatically change your life and that of your child(ren) forever.