Foreign Travel Restrictions During Divorce to Prevent Abduction
During and after divorce parents often fear the other may attempt taking the child out of the country and remaining abroad to prevent visitation. While this form of abduction does not happen frequently, there are plenty of television movies portraying the story of a parent fighting to get their child back from a foreign country.
Increasingly there are international professional work opportunities that bring more foreign employees to the U.S. and that place our citizens abroad for temporary or permanent positions. The increase in international work and travel means there are families all over, many not in their home country.
When non-U.S. citizens reside in Texas and seek a divorce, there is a greater risk one of the parties may try to take the child back to their country of origin and either try to have the divorce there or ignore the Texas courts and not return with the child. In Texas divorces where a Standing Order applies, the parties are travel-limited for the protection of children and prevention of abductions by other parents and family members.
Learn about the Hague Conventions and HCCH as it may affect international family law issues
Standing Orders in Divorce Cases Restrict Travel
Many of the larger counties in Texas have their own Standing Orders that automatically apply to the parties. Each county may have slight differences in their Standing Orders, but many things are common, including the restriction on travel. Most Standing Orders specifically state the parties may not remove children from the state for the purpose of establishing their domicile or residence elsewhere. Different counties also have language recognizing one party may have the right to determine residence and geographic location.
In North Texas there are Standing Orders in Dallas, Denton and Collin Counties. Tarrant county, however, does not use Standing Orders and instead mutual Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) are commonly used.
Temporary Restraining Orders in Texas Counties Without Standing Orders
When a new divorce case or a suit affecting the parent child relationship (SAPCR) is pending and there is no Standing Order applicable, the parties may seek a 14 day TRO to immediately protect the safety of a parent and children before and until the Temporary Orders Hearing takes place and sets conservatorship, possession and access to the child, also referred to as custody and visitation.
Depending on the circumstances in the suit, including the parties? country of origin, various relief may be requested in a TRO including the turnover of any passports for the other party and the children to prevent unauthorized foreign travel.
Listen to our podcast and learn about: Temporary Orders in Texas Divorce and Family Law
Also, you may be interested in this podcast: Temporary Restraining Orders for People and Property with Mark Scroggins
Foreign Counties May Not Recognize Orders Issued by U.S. Courts
Taking a child from Texas to Georgia against a court?s order is a different from taking a child to India. A child abducted by a parent to Georgia against a court order may be sought and returned to Texas with the cooperation of law enforcement. India, however, is under no obligation to recognize a U.S. court order. India is a non-Hague Convention country.
Traveling to non-Hague Countries presents challenges because those countries have not signed on as partners to the international Hague Convention Treaty. The Hague Treaty provides for a process for foreign nationals to seek the return of a child internationally abducted by one parent to be returned to the other.
Seeking Agreements and Court Orders Lifting Foreign Travel Restrictions During Divorce
When families take big vacations, especially around holidays, the organization and logistics of planning a big trip around people?s schedules is significant. Sometimes it is the extended family trip to Mexico that was planned before the filing of the divorce. Imagine further circumstances where one of the family members such as grandparent is ailing in health. The grandchildren have one last chance to create lasting memories on the trip.
Depending on the circumstances, conduct and allegations of the parties in their divorce or SAPCR case, the parties may come to an agreement to temporarily lift travel restrictions for the vacation. If the other party is not agreeable, the parent seeking to be allowed to take the children can file a motion with the court seeking an order granting the requested relief.
Enforcement of Standing Orders When Not Followed
Some people, despite the advice of their divorce lawyer, will do what they please and take the child on that extended family trip to Mexico, even if they asked the court and were denied. A motion for enforcement of any provision of a temporary order can be made with the court, enforceable by contempt of court. A temporary order includes a TRO or Standing Order.
A motion for enforcement is set for hearing where the party accused of violating the court?s temporary order can prove why they should not be held in contempt of court. In cases where non-compliance if proven, the respondent parent in noncompliance may be ordered to post a bond or security under certain circumstances.
Courts take enforcement issues seriously, especially as children are involved. Mark L. Scroggins helps people understand that sometimes you get further by being agreeable to a request to temporary allow the other party?s request. At other times, however, especially where legitimate risks to the safety of a child are present, all precautions must be taken.
Mark L. Scroggins is Board-Certified in Family Law and Issues Related to Temporary Orders
Board-Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Mark L. Scroggins has extensive experience addressing the needs of families and children in the process of a divorce or SAPCR case. If foreign travel restrictions during divorce become an issue of concern, call Scroggins Law Group in Dallas at (214) 469-3100.