Can I keep my teenage son from traveling?

Question: I am a divorced dad with a 15-year-old son.

He met a girl on MySpace and is planning on flying to Arizona in two weeks to stay with her for four days.

His mom is OK with this, but obviously I am not. They are now saying his mother is flying out with him.

I asked for some kind of confirmation and she will not provide anything. What can I do?

 

Answer:

Disagreements over teenagers’ social activities are common – and, unfortunately, unless your court order specifies how to handle them, they rise to a proper cause or change in circumstances sufficient to modify the order, they threaten your child’s health, safety and welfare or your court provides family mediators or other informal dispute resolution resources, there is not much you can do about them. This is because disagreements over how to raise a child are normal and to be expected. A good custody order will anticipate or adapt to them. A poorly drafted one will have to be interpreted. Here are a few things you can do:

-Read your current order carefully. Is there a provision requiring you and your ex to keep each other informed whenever the child travels out of state? Is the trip during your parenting time? Is your ex required to give you a telephone number and address where the child can be reached at all times? If yours contains one or more of these provisions or something similar, you may file a motion in your court to ask the judge to hold your ex in contempt for violating the court order.

-Put your concerns in writing to your ex. The key here is to document, document, document. Documentation will help refresh your memory if you do have to testify about this in court. Documentation will also help you prove that you made your ex aware of your concerns and the reasons for them.

-Contact your courthouse to learn what, if any, informal dispute resolution services the court provides. For example, some courthouses have family counselors available at low or no costs to families.

-Consider family therapy. Your ex’s decision to let your son meet a friend from MySpace may be a sign of poor parenting decisions to come. If you work together, express your concerns and develop bettering parenting skills as a group, you may avoid these problems in the future.

Keep in mind that I am a Michigan attorney and cannot give you detailed advice about the laws in Utah. You should not rely on this answer as establishing an attorney-client relationship, and you should contact an attorney in your area immediately if you need additional information or legal representation, as most parties in custody cases do.

 

Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims. Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

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