Divorce is complicated. But when the dust finally settles—and assets are divided and custody assigned—you might feel like you can breathe a sigh of relief at last. After all, every issue has been resolved. Right?

Unfortunately, this is not the experience for many divorcees. Divorce, much like life, brings daily questions. This is especially true when children are involved. 

You may feel that your divorce settlement leaves areas of gray. You could simply feel unhappy with the final arrangement. 

Either way, it’s wise to remain in contact with your attorney. That way, you can navigate the legal highs and lows of your post-divorce life. 

One question that may crop up is whether your ex-spouse is allowed to take your child out of the country. Below, we’ve provided all the information you need to know. 

Double-Check Your Custody Agreement

Before your divorce was finalized, there were at least one or two conversations about how custody would be assigned. You might have even crafted a parenting plan with the input of your ex-spouse. During these discussions, you should have been able to oppose and/or contribute to large decisions. 

Take another look at this parenting plan or custody order. Does it specify how travel should be handled? If there’s an agreement specified, it’s possible that your ex-spouse will need to have your permission to leave the country with the child.

Get Familiar with California’s Move-Away Laws

In California, move-away and travel laws depend on the custody agreement. If a parent has sole custody, he or she may take the child out of the country unless the other parent can prove that the move will be harmful to the child.

If a parent has joint custody, they may travel internationally with the child, even without the permission of the other parent. Again, a parent can only prevent this trip if the travel would be harmful to the child.

Naturally, proving that a trip would harm the child can be hard to do. To block the travel, you’ll need to take your ex-spouse to court. You’ll likely want to hire an attorney who understands California family law and your custody agreement to assist in negotiations.

Understand Federal Travel Laws

In the United States, both parents are required to sign the passport of a child under the age of 16 unless a parent is able to provide proof of sole custody. So, if you have joint custody of the child, you may prevent their travel by refusing to sign the passport. 

Are you worried that your ex-spouse may attempt to forge your signature? If so, you may receive notification of passport requests made in your child’s name. Simply enroll in the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program

Call an Attorney

If you have followed the last two steps and remain uncertain, call your attorney. A qualified professional will be best equipped to answer your questions. 

What Should I Do If My Ex-Spouse Has Broken the Law or Our Custody Agreement?

If you and your ex-spouse cannot come to an agreement about an upcoming trip, it may be time to file a court order. For parents who have visitation rights and/or joint custody, it can be possible to ban travel outside of the United States. 

The courts can even take possession of the ex-spouse’s passport if they believe an abduction is possible. Contact a family law attorney if you have questions.