Dear Dr. Jann: My children’s father and I divorced a year ago and we do not get along. I want to take my children to Mexico this year on vacation to see my parents.  They are getting on in years and they have never met my children who are now in middle school.  Their father says absolutely not — he’s afraid I won’t come back.  What do I do?

Dr. Jann: The first thing you do is plead to logic — you let your children’s father know your intent is only to introduce family, not run off with the children.

Make sure you make your request in ample time and offer an itinerary, complete with flight information, contact numbers and a verifiable return date. Round trip airplane tickets work. You may want to further explain your intentions–the trip is so the kids can have an actual relationship with family, have a sense of their roots, and understand their culture.

If he still doesn’t agree, you can go back to court and ask the judge to intercede. You could also ask the court to hold your children’s passport (and possibly your passport) as proof of your intent. This may not help your ability to problem solve with dad in the near future, but it will reinforce that your request is not out of the ordinary.

If a judge is involved, your children’s father will have to offer valid reasons why he doesn’t want the kids to leave.  Judges consider each individual request and make their decisions accordingly.

If a judge refuses a parent the right to leave the country on vacation with their children, there is usually an extenuating circumstance.

For example:

  • A parent and/or child is undocumented and it may be difficult to re-enter this country.
  • If the concern is that you won’t return, the country you want to visit was not a signer of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which guarantees the return of a child internationally abducted by a parent from one country to another. (Mexico became a signer in 1991).
  • A child needs special medication or treatments that may not be readily available in the country you want to visit.

These reasons are, of course, just speculation, but they are possible examples of why traveling to another country might be denied.

The true answer to your question is that you and your children’s father must improve your ability to communicate and trust each other. Once that improves, the reluctance to let the children leave the country will diminish because it will be viewed as the children visiting their grandparents.