Can You Take Your Kid Out of State Without Permission?

Before you load the cars and throw the kids in the backseat for your summer vacation, you may want to review your divorce settlement agreement. It is important to know if it is legal for you to take your kids out of state for vacation.

In general, the first place you should look when determining if you have the right to travel out of state with your child is the parenting order. Whether you will need permission from the court or the other parent will most likely be stated within the terms of your child custody order.

It is crucial to pay attention to the specific language used in these orders. Most custody agreements specify where and when the child may and may not travel.

If your custody plan does not address vacation travel, You will need to determine what type of custody you have. The type of custody you have is an important factor in determining your right to travel with a child. 

If you have sole legal custody, you are not required to clear any travel with the court or another parent. Even if you have sole custody, you must still take care that your travel arrangements do not conflict with your ex’s right to visitation. 

In general, when there is shared or joint legal custody, either parent may take the child out of state as long as it doesn’t interfere with the other parent’s regular custody time. If you are planning travel that will interfere with the other parent’s visitation schedule, you will need to get permission. 

Can You Stop Your Ex From Taking Your Kids Out of State?

Sometimes you might be concerned that an out-of-state vacation will not be in your child’s best interest.

In general, if your parenting agreement says that a trip out of state needs your permission, you can stop the other parent from taking the child out of state. If you believe your child’s safety is at risk, you may deny the other parent the right to take your child out of state.

For a variety of reasons, a parent might decide against giving the other parent permission to take the children on a trip. There is a chance that a child’s education or school schedule will be affected by travel. There might be concerns that the other parent might put the kid in situations where they could get hurt.  

The child’s travel companions are another factor that could cause a parent to withhold permission. Parents might not want their kids to spend unsupervised time with in-laws, careless family members, or the new love interest of the other parent.

If you refuse to grant permission for the trip, the other parent can petition the court for help. If the other parent files a petition asking the court to allow the vacation, you will need to call your attorney. Speak with your attorney about your options if the other parent requests a court order to take the child. Saying that you don’t like the other parent’s new partner might not be sufficient. If you don’t want your child to leave the state, you will need to have a good reason and a solid foundation for your decision. 

Is There Anything You Can Do to Stop Your Kid from Being Taken on an Out of State Trip?

If your custody agreement allows, you can stand your ground and refuse permission for the trip. The other parent cannot violate the custody arrangement without your permission. However, there are some ex-partners who will attempt to take your kids on a trip without your consent. 

Generally, if you’re worried that your ex-partner will break the custody agreement and take the child out of state without permission, you can file a motion with the court and ask the court to temporarily take away the child’s passports, stop them from traveling across state lines or to other countries, or change the custody agreement so that the child stays at home.

Should You Take Your Child Out of State Without Permission?

Most child custody orders say that you can’t take your child out of the state without the other parent’s permission. What can you do if you cannot get ahold of the other parent or you believe the other parent is refusing permission out of spite or just to be difficult?

In general, if the other parent refuses to let the child travel out of state for vacation, the traveling parent should not take matters into their own hands and take the child out of state. Taking your child out of state against the wishes of the other parent may result in court sanctions, or even contempt of court.

If the other parent won’t grant you permission, you might need to go to court to obtain a court order. It is possible to get the court to grant you an order allowing the travel. You can then use the court order to prove that you have legal custody of your child during the travel period, even if the other parent objects.

The court will typically send a request for a travel order to mediation. As an alternative to litigation, mediation is a tool for resolving parenting disputes. The court can order mediation at any time during a travel custody case. If mediation is not successful, the court may decide the matter. 

How to Avoid Travel Disputes with the Other Parent?

Travel plans, including trips out of state or abroad, should be taken into account when making your custody and visitation agreements. Even though parents might not think to include travel in their custody agreements, it may happen more often than you think. Families frequently travel out of state to visit relatives, go on vacation, and take advantage of educational opportunities.  

To avoid travel disputes with the other parent, you should consider the following:

  • Read through your separation agreement. Make sure you understand how vacations are supposed to be handled. Understand the terms and make sure you give notice within the timelines set forth in the agreement.
  • Make your travel plans in advance. Do not wait until the last minute to plan a vacation and then spring it on the other parent.
  • Give the other parent advanced notice. Don’t wait until the last minute.
  • Be reasonable and flexible. The day may come when you want to take the child out of state or even out of the country. 
  • Don’t schedule travel during the other parent’s scheduled visitation time or on dates you know are important to the other parent.
  • Give full information about the trip, including a list of everyone who is going and a copy of the complete itinerary.
  • Discuss how travel expenses will be handled. I’ve written a blog about visitation expenses if you want some additional information. Knowing this information will save you from headaches later.

Following these simple tips will help you avoid a travel dispute with the child’s other parent.


Tim McDuffey is a practicing attorney in the State of Missouri. Tim is a licensed member of the Missouri Bar and Missouri Bar Association.

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