Should I allow my ex to take my child out of the country?

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Question:

I have joint custody with my ex-husband, who has relocated to his homeland of Nigeria. Our custody agreement states he cannot travel with our son to Nigeria without a letter of consent from me. I am allowing my son to travel with his father to Nigeria. Should I take more precautions than just a written letter of permission? For example, should I notify the court? My son is four years old.

Answer:

A most difficult question. You probably understand that if your ex doesn't return with your child, you'll have a very difficult time getting him back as long as he remains in Nigeria. About the best you can do at your end is to draw up a simple agreement pointing up the following facts: your rights under the court order giving you custody, your permission limited to the exact period of time your ex plans to have your child gone, and a statement that your ex understands that if the child is not returned at the appropriate time, you will consider it to be a kidnapping and will immediately report it to the District Attorney.

Then, if possible, both of you should sign the agreement before a notary public. At the very least, if something goes wrong, you'll have clear proof that the absence is not due to some misunderstanding.

Some final words of caution: Although I am a firm believer in self-help law whenever possible, I strongly recommend that you run any agreement you draw up past a Minnesota family law attorney before you sign it. It may cost you a few bucks, but I'm sure your ex will be willing to pay if the alternative is for you to deny permission.

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