If you are wanting to travel and live abroad with your kids, you are going to have to make sure you can legally do so.
I am super lucky that I had guidance when I was going through my divorce because that guidance helped me create divorce papers that gave me the freedom to travel the world and live abroad with my daughters.
You might be in the beginning stages of trying to figure out how to legally travel with your kids.
This article will help you create custody papers that give you the freedom to travel with your kids and get passports for your kids.
It will also go over getting a parental consent form, navigating visas, and dealing with a difficult ex.
This IS NOT an article about how you should take a child away from the other parent who is actively involved in your child’s life.
If the other parent has an active healthy role in your child’s life, then congrats! That is amazing!
You will still find tremendous value in this article and it actually might be easier for you to make the travel life possible for you and your kids.
Now, if you are in the situation I was in where I was getting out of an abusive marriage and the other parent was not a healthy, present father figure in my daughter’s life, that is a whole different story.
Step 1 to legally traveling with your kids: Evaluate your current custody order.
If you already have a custody/divorce decree, look at it closely.
Warning: I am not a lawyer. The information in this article comes from my own personal experience and the experience of other single mommas living this lifestyle. Please remember that I am a random internet stranger and you should consult with a lawyer for actual legal advice.
Does your current order state anything about travel, passports, moving, and living abroad?
Chances are HIGH that if you currently have an order and you didn’t stumble upon this article first before your order was created, there is very little about these topics in your decree.
Your papers might say something about moving out of your county, state, or needing to give notice of travel to the other parent but that is it.
I am going to detail EXACTLY what your decree needs to state in order for you to freely travel and live abroad with your kids WITHOUT permission from the other parent.
Get ready! Here we go!
When I was going through my separation and divorce the idea of traveling and living abroad was already burning in my mind.
I had spent the last 6 years of my relationship with my then-husband restricted to living in Austin, TX due to his custody order with his ex-wife.
That was super tough for a free spirit like me who was used to moving often.
I’ve never been a fan of being restricted to living in one place, and I’m assuming since you are still reading this that you are not either.
I value freedom as one of my core values so I knew that I needed divorce papers that reflected that.
These are the FOUR statements with EXACT wording your custody/divorce decree needs to state for complete freedom:
- (Your Name) has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child WITHOUT geographic restrictions, including outside of the Unites States of America and WITHOUT the consent of (Other Parent’ Name).
- IT IS ORDERED that (Your Name) shall have the right to maintain possession of any passports of the child, (Your Child’s Name).
- IT IS ORDERED that (Your Name) shall have the exclusive right to apply or renew a passport for the child without authorization or approval from (Other Parent’s Name).
- IT IS ORDERED that (Your Name) may travel abroad with the child without authorization or approval from (Other Parent’s Name).
These FOUR statements on your decree are liquid gold and if you can get these added into your decree, then you will have the freedom you crave.
However, this works better and is easier to get when you don’t already have an established decree in place.
I try and catch moms before or at the start of the custody/divorce process.
Hopefully, I caught you in time. If not, all hope is not lost. Keep reading to find out other things you can do to create a life of freedom through travel and living abroad.
What if the other parent is not on the birth certificate?
If there is no other parent on the birth certificate, then you will be able to apply for passports, travel, and live abroad without any legal issues.
That is the same situation I am in with my two older girls. No dad listed on their birth certificate means I don’t have to answer to anyone. Yay! Freedom feels so good!
I’m giving you a virtual high five right now if you are in the above situation.
Pro Tip: If you are pregnant and the other parent is not involved, DO NOT put them on the birth certificate. It is NOT worth it. Don’t try and convince the other parent to come to the birth or anything. Enjoy your freedom.
What if I cannot locate the other parent to sign for passports?
Sometimes, you do not have any contact with the other parent and don’t even know where they are. You can submit form DS5525 to try and obtain a passport without the other parent’s signature.
What about this parental consent form I keep hearing about?
If the other parent is listed on the birth certificate and you don’t have sole custody or the four statements I outlined earlier in this article in your decree, then you might need a parental consent form signed by the other parent and notarized giving you permission to travel abroad with your child.
I know. I know. This sounds crazy especially when you already have passports which requires approval from the other parent but bear with me on this.
A lot of people don’t realize this. Having a passport for your child is not always enough.
You might need in addition to a passport a parental consent form.
Now, in all our travels I have only needed to show my decree in Canada and Ireland.
You WILL want to look on the embassy website of the country where you plan to travel to find out what is needed.
The U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Mexico recommends all minors traveling without both parents carry a notarized consent letter at all times in the event the airline or Mexican immigration officials request one.
Let me add one more thing about this. I have traveled back and forth to Mexico at least 7 times at the time of writing this and have never been asked to show anything besides passports so I don’t want to deter you from living abroad or traveling if you don’t have a parental consent form.
You can click here to find multiple example letters and how to word them.
If possible get open ended dates and locations instead of set dates and set locations.
This gives you more freedom.
Dealing With A Difficult Ex
A lot of my clients have an ex who is extremely difficult to deal with.
Often, there might still be a lot of emotions from the relationship which makes creating a custody/divorce decree that gives you the freedom to travel much more difficult.
You DO WANT to stay out of court if at all possible.
I remember a couple of years ago a single mom reached out to me saying she was taking her ex back to court for child support and to fix some things in their paperwork.
I advised against this because she had enough freedom to at least travel.
Child support is not worth you potentially losing freedom for you and your family.
If you read my How To Finance Your Travel And Moving Abroad Lifestyle article, you know that child support is not guaranteed even if it is court ordered.
This single mom DID NOT take my advice. She was feeling hurt and angry at her ex so she went to court. The judge ordered that she remain in the city where her ex lived. At the time she was actually living in another state and city.
She lost both her and her child’s freedom.
This is what I want you to avoid if at all possible.
If you are dealing with a difficult ex, remove your emotions from the situation. I know how challenging this can be.
I’ve had many “come to Jesus” moments over the years when it comes to dealing with a difficult ex. It ain’t easy.
Disengage. Be kind even when they are not being kind and create boundaries.
You can get things in your divorce decree like all communication with your ex is to happen on a court ordered website like Our Family Wizard or Talking Parents.
I highly recommend you NOT ONLY set this in your decree but that you actually utilize this for your own protection.
Remember it is not worth it to bicker back and forth with your ex. It solves nothing and costs you everything mentally. If they want to trash your name or mistreat you, that is on them. You don’t have to talk to them.
If you get along with the other parent that is wonderful.
Creating Travel Documents With The Other Parent
When getting your travel documents created here are a few things you can do to gain the freedom you want:
Leverage Child Support– lower or discontinue child support in order to give the other parent the option of leaving you the heck alone. This is for those of you who don’t have an active other parent involved who would be happy to grant you the freedom to travel and live abroad if you would lower or drop child support all together.
Work Out A Travel Friendly Custody Agreement– If you are on friendly terms with your ex, offer travel arrangements that they are comfortable with. Maybe you fly back every other month? Maybe your child spends the whole summer with them? Maybe the other parent travels with you or can come visit in whatever country you are in? Get creative and be flexible with this.
You know what will work for your family and what won’t.
Work on releasing any limiting beliefs you might have on legally traveling and moving abroad with your kids.
Raise your vibe so high so no difficulties with your ex will bring you down.
Okay. Enough about custody/divorce decrees, parental consent forms, passports and difficult exes. It is time to talk about VISAS.
What About Visas?
The first thing you need to do is look at visa requirements for the country you are wanting to move to based on your passport country. Some are a lot easier than others.
Let’s take Albania for example: Americans can stay in Albania for up to a year with no visa at all.
This means you book your one way ticket. Arrive in Albania and they let you through no questions asked for an entire year.
Easy as that.
Mexico for example let’s you stay in the country or up to 180 days before you have to leave the country. There is no official stance on how long you have to leave for.
Some people cross the border for a few hours while others leave for days, to weeks, to months before returning. Doing this which is normally referred to as a border run, is what many choose to do instead of going through the process of actually obtaining residency.
Now, a border agent does not have to give you 180 days upon your return. Are they likely to? Yes, but they DO NOT have to.
I have done border runs multiple times with no issue.
I have some tips on making them successful.
3 Tips For A Hassle Free Entry Into A Country:
- Have an address of an Airbnb or hotel you will be staying at. They will ask sometimes.
- Have all your documents ready. Birth certificates, divorce decree, travel authorization letters. Passports, etc.
- Be confident. Your energy is everything. If you are looking frazzled and worried they might suspect something. It is their job to carefully consider who they let into their country.
But understand that I cannot guarantee that you will receive 180 days.
Other countries that are super easy to travel to for Americans:
Other US Territories
365 days (1 year)
Georgia (Yes there is a country named Georgia)
180 days (6 months)
UK (Please note they they can and will be stricter than Mexico)
90 days (3 months)
Europe Schengen Zone
Please note: There are more countries that are easy to travel to for Americans than what I have listed so please do your research on this. I should also add that currently during the pandemic we cannot travel to a lot of these countries. I see that changing in the near future but if you are reading this during the pandemic as an American you are actually pretty limited as of now.
I hope this article helps you gain the freedom to travel and live abroad with your child. You’ve got this!