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What happens if a parent does not sign for minor child's passport renewal and they're already overseas?

Question: Although my husband and his ex-wife have joint custody of their 8-year-old child, the mother took the child out of the U.S. to South Korea using the ruse of a family visit 5 years ago. We have been trying to get her back once we realized that the mother had no intention of returning to the US or abiding by the visitation/custody agreement.

I don't understand how they have been able to remain in Korea for so long or how she could continue; I assume that she's been applying for a tourist visa over and over again. She has also taken the child to Thailand several times and entered and left the U.S. without our knowledge.

The mother is a US citizen as well as the child. The only reason that her family lives in Korea is because her father is a DOD Civilian that is working at a US military base. Due to the mother's total lack of regard concerning threats of prosecution by the state of TX and several court orders to appear and produce the child, my husband will not be signing the renewal documents for his daughter's passport. It will expire in 2 months and we have not had any contact with mother or child since December of last year because she absolutely refuses phone calls, ignores emails and certified letters.

Next week, we have another hearing that will likely grant us sole custody of the child. We don't even know where to go from there. The U.S. Embassy and the Korean Government have already told us that they will not get involved with civil matters and the Korean Government said that our court orders for visitation, etc. have no legal standing in their country.

No agency seems to be concerned with the fact that they're just hanging out in Korea for 5 years. If the mom wants to do it and finds a legal way, fine. But how can a minor with a disagreeable parent be allowed? No one has questioned any of it. The mother sent a formal response to the court stating that she will not be attending the hearing because she does not claim to be a resident of TX so the state of TX has no "influence" on her. They were divorced in TX and yes, she really said it.

What happens to the child if the passport expires while she's in Korea and my husband refuses to sign the renewal documents? Will someone force her to be sent back? Will the Korean Government put her on a plane and deport her? We are planning to fly to Korea to bring her home as soon as we are granted custody-we are familiar with the area-we are both military who were stationed there and have friends who have done some investigative work for us. Of course I'm worried, that without any support from any government agencies, we will run into trouble because it will appear as though we just flew in, snatched the child and brought her to the US.

We can't risk letting her passport expire because if it does, won't her mother have to sign the same paperwork if we apply for renewal?
She will not, I guarantee it. Can we get some type of emergency "override" or something if that happens? Her mother is also facing 6 months of jail time for each contempt of court charge- there are 18 of them. I can't seem to get a straight answer on this. We've tried the State Dept. International Abduction route, but because her whereabouts are known, her welfare is not in obvious danger, and the divorce decree is not "specific" enough, even though it is a standard TX divorce decree. They will not get involved.

Every time I've inquired about her passport expiring, they request "more info" and send us a bunch of information regarding child abduction, but nothing about the passport. FRUSTRATING! Thank you so much for any advice. I feel like we're just running in circles.

Answer: Since you have received recommendations concerning child abduction, I will focus on the question concerning the child's passport and only comment briefly concerning international child abduction at the end.

Passports issued to minors cannot be renewed by mail. The minor must appear in person with both parents in order to apply for a new passport. This can be done at any passport application acceptance facility or regional passport agency in the United States. When overseas, applications are submitted at a U.S. embassy or consulate general.

When only one parent appears with the child, the applying parent must either submit written, notarized consent Form DS-3053 from the non-applying parent or evidence of sole legal custody.

The applying parent must submit Form DS-5525: Statement of Exigent/Special Family Circumstances when one parent is absent and cannot be located. The U.S. Department of State is very strict concerning what constitutes a special circumstance.

If you were to travel to South Korea with proof of sole legal custody, then written approval from the mother would not be required in order to get a passport for the child.

You may be aware of this but the child can be enrolled in the Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program. If an application is submitted on behalf of the girl, then the father would be contacted and given the chance to either allow or deny consent to obtain a passport. For more information, click the link below.

Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program

Since South Korea is not a partner to the Hague Convention, you must seek legal action through other means if you so desire. The link below is to a site that provides possible solutions.

Using a Foreign Country's Civil Justice System

Finally, I would like to mention the website "Bring Sean Home". This was a highly publicized case which involved a Brazilian mother who traveled to Brazil with her son under the ruse of a family trip but who refused to return to the U.S. and her American husband.

The battle went on for several years but Sean was finally returned to his father in the United States. The website details several other cases of international child abduction and provides some guidance for those who are facing this heart-wrenching situation.

Bring Sean Home

UPDATE: Republic of Korea (South Korea) has signed the Hague Convention on the Civic Aspects of International Child Abduction in November 1, 2013.

Comments for What happens if a parent does not sign for minor child's passport renewal and they're already overseas?

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Thank You
by: Anonymous

Thank you so much for the links, they really did help us figure out exactly the kind of drama that we will be facing. We had our hearing, the mother did not show (as we expected) and my husband was awarded full custody. We notified the State Dept, the Embassy in Seoul, Immigration and the military base that she is employed by. She has about 2 weeks from today to bring the child to us and she also has an active warrant for her arrest. If she doesn't show (likely) then the agencies mentioned above are prepared to take action. She will be forcibly removed from the base and the ROK will not allow her to stay in country, she has no where else to go. Both of their passports are flagged and they will not be allowed to travel anywhere but to the states, where she will be arrested and my husband notified so that he can pick up his daughter from their point of entry. We are hopeful that she sees the seriousness of her situation and acts appropriately because if she doesn't, her life will be ruined forever. I do appreciate your help, I have learned a lot from reading the information you provided.

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