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Getting permission from your ex to travel and live abroad

How To Travel or Live Abroad With Kids When Your Ex Says NO!

Getting Permission to travel or live abroad long term with kids: Me with my three kids at some random airport waiting for our next flight (2012).

So you want to travel or live abroad with your kids and expose them to other cultures but your ex is saying “NO WAY”.  What do you do? Here is my personal story of how I was able to get permission to travel and then to live abroad with my kids despite my ex-husband (the father of my 2 sons) FIGHTING ME TOOTH AND NAIL. It wasn’t easy but it can be done.

“Yes Officer, I DO have permission to travel with my children”.

Travelling When One Parent Is Not Present

If you have kids and want to travel internationally without the other parent, you are supposed to have written permission from the other parent.  Without written permission, you run the risk of getting denied entry into that other country.

But what happens when the other parent refuses to write you a letter giving you permission? Even between the US and Canada.

Our Routine Flight To Montreal

In 2010, I flew into Montreal like I’ve done so many times before with two minor differences.

I only had 2 of my 3 children with me and my husband Blake was not with me. Blake and my eldest son were driving a moving truck across the country towards some tiny storage unit in Massachusetts.

I exited the plane with my son and daughter and promptly walked to the immigration and customs area to wait in line to get our passports stamped.  When it was our turn, I handed the customs agent our passports.

He immediately took them and furrowed his eyebrows as if he were straining to read our names.

He looked up at us, then back at our passports and back at us and did this a few more times

No Big deal, I expected this scrutiny since I was ONE ADULT flying with kids and no father in sight.

Travelling is more complicated for us

To make matters worse, in addition to me flying alone with my children, it’s not immediately apparent that I am the children’s mother because we have three different last names.  If you haven’t guessed yet, I have a blended family and we have 3 different last names.

FIRST NAME: My name is Annie Andre. Andre is my maiden name that I’ve kept on all my documents.

SECOND NAME: I’ve remarried and my daughter and my husband have the same last name.

THIRD NAME: My two sons are from a previous marriage over a decade ago and they have my ex-husbands last name. It doesn’t help that one of my son’s first name is my last name or that my other son has my last name as his middle name. ( “ANDRE”). I digress!

 Papers Please!

I’m used to carrying documents showing that I have permission to travel with my sons.

95% of the time, I am never asked for proof that I have permission to take my boys out of the country but today was one of those rare occasions. However the passport agent only asked  me to show my “permission slip” to travel with my daughter and NOT my son.  Okaaaaay?

I smiled and pulled out my proof:

  1. Handwritten note from my husband Blake which gave me permission to travel with Catherine. (It’s recommended you get this notarized but mine is not)
  2. My daughters birth certificate which showed Blake and I were her parents.
  3. A photocopy of Blake’s Passport for good measure. 

Hypothetically speaking, had the passport agent asked me for proof that I had permission to travel with my son,  I would have handed him a COURT ORDER  which allows me to travel freely with my two boys.

You’ll notice, I did not have a written letter of consent from my ex husband.  I had a court order. I’ll explain why and how I got this court order in a moment.

“Welcome Back to Canada” said the smiling customs agent.

Then the border police stamped our passport and off we went to my family’s house in Montreal.

How I Got Permission To Travel Abroad: Travel NOT LIVE

A few years ago, Blake and I decided to elope to Europe and take our daughter and my two sons with. It was just a month-long trip.

I really thought my EX would agree to let me to take the boys with us to Europe. After all, it was only a month and it was for my wedding.  I really wanted it to be a family thing with us and the kids.

No amount of pleading, begging or bribing could persuade my ex into writing a letter to give me permission to travel with the boys.

I really wanted the boys to be part of the ceremony, so rather than just rolling over and leaving the boys behind, I took my ex to court and big surprise “I won”.

It was rather silly.I suppose the judge could see that my ex was trying to be difficult because he ordered him to sign all the documents so that I could apply for passports to travel abroad with the kids until the boys turned 18.

The judge also gave me permission to travel anywhere in the US and Canada and internationally without written permission from my ex  as long as I tell him our itinerary.

It was this COURT ORDER I used on the day I went to Montreal with my kids and it’s what I carry with me when I travel anywhere for short visits like vacations.

But what if I want to spend more time abroad? What if I want to live abroad or spend up to a year abroad travelling with my kids? 

Eloped: Intermission

In case you were wondering, we spent 3 1/2 weeks in Paris and then flew to Edinburgh Scotland to have a small civil ceremony on July 14th which happens to be Bastille day (French independence day).

You can read about why we decided to elope to to Scotland as a family rather than get married locally.

You can also get the inside scoop on we to  we eloped to Scotland too. 

CHEEEEEEEEEEEZE. I’m so glad we took the boys with us. It just would not have been the same without them.

2008_07_15-190

This is us moments before the deed is done

Blake and I minutes after we were married in Scotland
Blake and I after the civil ceremony in Edinburgh. One of my sons is the photographer.

The kids hanging out at the Edinburgh castle after Blake and I got married

The kids hanging out at Edinburgh Castle.

The boys horsing around in Scotland
The boys re-enacting the battle of Langside where Mary Queen of Scotts was defeated.

Permission to TRAVEL LONG TERM and LIVE ABROAD

I had permission to travel and visit other countries with the boys but not permission to LIVE abroad.  

Right now, as I write these words, I am living in France with my husband Blake and 3 children.

The COURT ORDER that I obtained for travelling with my boys ( which I mentioned above) was not valid for “LIVING” in another country.  I could stay in Europe as a tourist with my family for 90 days but I wanted to live there for a year legally and immerse the kids in French culture which meant sending them to School.

For that I needed a special visa called the “LONG STAY VISA” which gave us the right to send our kids to school and stay legally in the country for one year not 90 days. 

Travel and Live are two different concepts and the French Embassy required that I either get written permission from my ex that clearly stated I could “LIVE” in France with my two sons or a court order showing that I can “LIVE” in France.

I called up my ex and explained to him what I wanted to do.

Parents send their kids abroad for a year of study all the time. I wanted my children to experience a year abroad but I wanted to be there with them. I hoped that my ex would be okay with the kids spending a year abroad. He was but not with the idea of me being there with them.

Okaaaay!

Again, no amount of pleading, begging, no agreement I came up with was good enough for him and he would not write me a letter giving me and the boys permission to live abroad.

So again I petitioned the court to intervene and decide.

SIDEBARNow before you jump on my back about taking the boys away from their birth father let me first say that  my situation may be very different from yours.

Obviously since I am writing this while living in France, the judge granted me permission to LIVE in France with my boys.

You Are Not Guaranteed Court Approval

Just because you take your ex to court does not guarantee you will win. In my case my ex did not have a very good track record as a parent.

There were a lot of variables that worked in our favour. The bad economy and the fact that my husband and I could not find jobs in our field. The educational opportunity for the boys and the fact that we would and could be home for the kids after school.

But there was one big variable which may shock many of my friends who knew me and my ex because I have not told anyone but family and close friends about because of fear of retaliation from my EX.

In my opinion, my ex’s LACK of involvement and lack of assistance weighed heavily on the judge’s ruling to allow us to travel.

  • Rarely Saw the boys: My ex rarely saw the boys. On two separate occasions I had to pay him and his sister to baby-sit for me. ( I finally found a sitter so I could have a break once a month).
  • Endangerment: On one occasion my ex was supposed to take one of my sons for 30 days in the summer but I was called by his then girlfriend  after 15 days to come and pick my son up because my ex was too drunk to take care of him.
  • Lack of Support:My ex went 8 years without paying me a dime of child support while receiving wages from working under the table before the courts finally took action and required proof that he was looking for a job. A real job. Now his pay-checks are automatically deducted and I get child support but he will be in his sixties before he ever catches up on all of his back child support that is owed to me and the boys. The boys will be close to 30 at that time.

I could go on, but you get the picture right? 

I am sharing all of this with you because I actually don’t think it is always a good idea to move out of the country with your children if the other parent does not want them to. For instance, had my ex been involved in my boys lives then I would not have attempted to take them out of the country. But since he was barely there for them there was really no loss in my eyes. And the judge thought so too.

The Court Process:

I’ll briefly explain the court process that I went through.

At the time, I was living in Montreal and my ex was in California. I called up the lawyer I used before and asked her to file a new petition to allow me to take the kids abroad.

I did not even have to fly to California. I was on the phone for the entire court proceeding. I could hear my ex presenting his case. My lawyer was present in California on my behalf. It lasted 20 minutes at most and then the judge made his ruling and I was allowed to LIVE in France for not one but TWO years with the boys.

So How Do You Get YOUR Court Order?

Before you go and try to get a court order to travel with your kids, I strongly advise you to speak with your ex first and try to draw up an agreement. It’s not only the best way to do it, it will also cost you less money leaving you with more money for your family.

But if your ex does not want to give you permission and you have your heart set on travelling or spending a year abroad like us then you’ll have to go to court.

DO IT YOURSELF OR HIRE A LAWYER?

I hired a family law lawyer. Each time I used my lawyer it cost between 1,500 and 2,000 dollars.

The lawyer I used was in the Santa Clara County of California since that is where I lived with my kids and that is where our custody agreement is. I did nothing else but search on the Internet for a family law lawyer who handled child custody and modification agreements. Then i just called them and found the one I liked. ( I called 3).

You don’t need to hire a lawyer. You could file your own documents:

I talked with several parents who did NOT hire a lawyer. They filled out and filed their own documents and you can do this too.

Go to your local family court-house and ask if they have free legal advice service or people on hand who can help you choose the correct documents and help you fill out the paperwork.

Once your documents are filled out, you file them and wait for your court date. In addition to filing my court docs,  I wrote a very wordy document about why I wanted to take the boys and why it benefited them. I wrote a bit about how much or little my ex was involved in my boy’s life. There is no format for this.  I just winged it and wrote from the heart.

That’s It. 

WHAT DOCUMENTS DO YOU NEED TO TRAVEL OR LIVE ABROAD WITH KIDS?

Just to summarize here are the documents you should travel with.

I spoke with several parents who travel internationally or live abroad with kids (alone). Some people I spoke with don’t even get permission from their ex. They just chance it. Others didn’t even know that they were supposed to have written permission.  So technically you could always chance it and go without written permission.

Personally, I wouldn’t chance it..

You never know when you will be asked to produce documentation. So here is what I recommend you travel with..

  • Always travel with a letter from the other parent. It should give you permission to travel with the kids and it should be dated and signed. Many government sites say that the letter should be notarized but so far I have only used NON notarized documents.
  • I  Also bring a copy of my child’s birth certificate which shows who the parents are. I have a friend (Talon, a single dad )who adopted his son and on the birth certificate it only shows him as the father the mother area is left blank so he doesn’t need to show any other documentation. Although he did say that he travels with the adoption papers just in case but that no one has even asked him to show any proof of the mothers permission.
  • A copy of your spouse or the other parents ID. Preferably a passport if you can manage. I have a copy of my husbands but not my ex.

Here is a link to the Canadian site with a link to a blank letter for you to fill out. Here is the link to the U.S. site stating the requirements.

If you can’t get a letter of approval than you will have to get a court order like i did. Be very careful of the wording you use in the court order.

Will you travel with the kids on vacations? Will you live abroad for a year? What countries? Will you travel nomadically during a period of time? For how long? What about the kids education? Health Insurance? How will they communicate with the other parent while abroad?

These are all things I had to consider and answer and you may need to do the same for your court order.

Reading Books In Berlin: Prenzlauer_Berg

The Kids Do A Lot Of Reading and Learning On The Road

ps: I wanted to add one thing. 

Not many people know this story including my friends. I think a lot of them will be very shocked to find out about this private matter.

I was going to keep it private but I think and I hope in the least that my transparency and my struggles will inspire and empower other single parents and blended families not to fear un-cooperative ex spouses.  I always advocate amicable relationships with ex’s but that’s just not always possible is it? You have to do what is best for the kids and that is what I did.

FINAL THOUGHTS: You Don’t Have To Agree With Me

I realize there may be some of you who disagree with the idea of travelling and living abroad with kids. You are entitled to that opinion.

I lived abroad and travelled a lot as a child and I am so grateful my parents gave me that opportunity. So much so that I want to give my kids the same gift that I received.

My kids are experiencing other cultures and seeing the way other people live first hand not to mention the fact that they are fluent in French now.

These are all things they would normally do and see in a classroom or some textbook but are getting to experience first hand. Plus they are learning to be more  creative which makes for better problem solvers who can adapt better to change in this world.

It took a lot of sacrifice on my part and my husband’s part to take the kids abroad but it’s totally worth it.

I would love to know your thoughts? Leave your comments below.

Millers travel the world with kids

How The Millers Lost Their Money And Still Travel The World With Kids. (Series #8)

edventureproject Travel The World With Kids
What if you and your spouse spent years saving and planning for THE trip of a lifetime which involved taking the kids to travel through Europe for a year and during that year long trip, THE STOCK MARKET CRASHED and you LOST ALL YOUR  MONEY?

This isn’t hypothetical. This is what happened to the Millers, A Family of 6 from the U.S. and Canada.

I bet the last thing you would do is travel the world with your kids after this catastrophic loss right? Not the Millers. Find out how the Millers used this terrifying experience as a Catalyst to create an extraordinary lifestyle, travelling and experiencing the world together as a family for almost five years straight.

Snap Shot: The Millers of www.EdventureProject.com

  • Number Of Kids: 4 kids  (16- Hannah, 14- Gabriel, 12- Elisha, 10- Ezra) this was back in 2012.
  • Educating Kids: Home-school
  • Type Of Travel: Long Term, Slow Travel, Semi-Nomadic, International
  • Length Of Travel: Since 2008, 4 + Years
  • Where They’ve Travelled:
    Europe:—> UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, France.
    Africa:—>Tunisia,
    N.America: –> Canada, USA (45 States),
    Mexico—> ( All but 4 states),
    Central America:—> Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Guatemala for 6 months,
    Asia:—> Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos (so far!).
  • Challenges: Finding freelance clients to fund their lives. (who doesn’t though right?)
  • Finances: Online workshops to help would-be travellers, kindle ebooks, Freelance clients: Filemaker database developer designer, freelance writing.
  • Budget: $100 / day or $16.60 per person per day
  • Where To Find Them Online: Twitter: Mom@edventuremama, Dad @edventuredad, Hannah @edventuregirl ,Gabe @edventuredude
  • Kids Blogs:  http://www.edventuregirl.com (Hannah’s blog) ttp://www.havebrotherswilltravel.com

WHERE

Since 2008, the Millers have travelled to over 20 countries and counting: including almost one year of cycling over 9,000 KM through parts of Europe. They have visited almost every state in the US, almost every Province in Canada, and all but four states in Mexico. They visited temples in Asia, rode elephants and camels and they did this with 4 kids in tow who were all under the age of 12 when they started their adventure.

The Millers are what you would call long term travellers because they travel for long periods.  They are also known as slow travellers. Slow travellers can spend up to a few months in one spot before moving on  to their next destination.  To date, they’re longest stint in one place has been 3 months in Tunisia and 6 months in Guatemala.

You might think that the Millers did a lot of pre-planning for this whirlwind 5 year adventure but they didn’t. It was by some pretty horrific and financially traumatic circumstances that they ended up travelling the way they do.

The One Year Cycling Across Europe Plan

In 2006, Tony and Jenn Miller started planning what would be a one year family gap year.

Not just any family gap year. A cycling gap year which involved cycling over 9,000 Kilometers across Europe to places like the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic …….with their 4 kids who were between the ages of 6 and 12 at the time.

By 2008, after two years of very careful budgeting and planning, they were finally ready to start moving slowly through Europe.

  • They had sold their house.
  • Sold or gave away most of their stuff and put what little precious things they wanted to keep in a little 8 x 10 storage unit somewhere in the U.S.
  • They also did a bunch of other logistical things for their trip.

They really thought they had it all figured out but the Millers didn’t plan for everything.

To be fair, they couldn’t have planned for what was about to happen.

Around the end of 2007 , jobs were slowly disappearing.

The economy was about to take a dive.

People would have a hard time finding jobs and the unemployment rate would reach record highs.

No one, including the Miller’s knew this was happening YET.

As far as the Millers were concerned, all was good and going as planned.

They left for their trip and then one day during their trip, in October of 2008, the stock market crashed and with the exception of a few thousand dollars in various checking accounts and their retirement funds, they lost all the money they had saved up and were supposed to live off of during the trip.

They lost all of their money.

Most people would be devastated by this but a funny thing happens to some people. They either shrivel up defeated or it brings out this internal tiger that wants to beat the odds and make you fight.

Time In Tunisia To Make A New Game Plan

The Millers didn’t run back to the United States to lick their wounds and try to rebuild their old lives. Instead they settled in Tunisia for the winter to regroup. They knew they didn’t want their adventure to end but they needed money to continue so they used their time in Tunisia to figure out how to make some money far for their adventures and beyond their one year gap year that has allowed them to travel the world with kids in tow.

MONEY How Much Do They Spend?

You might be surprised to learn that it costs the Millers less than $36,000 per year to travel the world with kids as they do.

That breaks down to about $100 a day, $3000 a month or $16.60 per day per person. They are almost always under that regardless of continent.  That’s less than most people spend in the U.S. who just stay put in one place. This surprises most people because, they think it’s expensive to travel.

I think the main reason people believe travelling must be expensive is because their only point of reference is from taking expensive vacations. Vacations are only expensive because it involves staying in expensive hotels, eating out every night and paying top dollar for costly tourist and site seeing activities in a short amount of time. But that’s a post for another day.

So how exactly do the Millers support themselves?

You could say that losing all that money in the stock market crash was pivotal for them because it forced them to create a location independent income stream that they didn’t have before.

In fact, Jenn and Tony said that they see that market crash as a blessing in disguise because it pushed them outside of their comfort zone and forced them to really evaluate what they wanted to do with their lives. During their 3 month stay in Tunisia to regroup, Tony and Jenn decided to turn the skills they had acquired from their former professions into a portable income that they could earn from anywhere in the world.

The Solution To Their Money Problems: It’s a team effort

The majority of their income comes from Tony’s work as a Filemaker Database developer and designer. He has contracts with big companies you’ve heard of, and little ones you haven’t. He also creates iOS and Android Apps for small companies.

Jennifer’s work converted nicely to travelling too.  She is a teacher by training but has done educational consulting and curriculum design for the alternative schooling market for over a decade.

Now she writes freelance for the home-school and travel markets, which really is great because it’s something she enjoys doing anyways but gets paid to do it. She also co-created an online class and workshop with another long term traveller; Nancy Vogel of FamilyOBikes.org. The course is called Dream: Reboot and it helps people define their dreams and then helps them turn those dreams into a reality.

BAGGAGE

Hannah-Beach

No surprise, the Millers have to travel light. No bags with wheels for the Miller’s.

They each have their proper travelling backpack and a smaller day-pack for the buses, ferries, trains and planes.

In their packs they each have three outfits, two swimsuits, a jacket and a rain coat. Computers for work and school. Toys for the kids, knitting for Jenn, a hand coffee grinder and press for Tony.

OH, I almost forgot, Hannah, their now 16 year old daughter plays instruments. They carry a guitar, a mandolin and a fiddle for her and she plays for hours each day. It’s amazing I tell you. I want to meet this girl.

What About The Kids?

edventurekids

Right the kids. I know a lot of you are thinking if it’s not the money then it’s the kids that are preventing you from living your travel dreams.

Honestly, I believe this is just a mental block that we are brainwashed into believing. I mean, if you want to travel with the kids but feel like you can’t because it might hurt the kids future think again.   As far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the best educations you can give your kids if you can do it.

The Millers obviously feel the same way because their main goal in travelling was the KIDS EDUCATION and to introduce their kids to the world. They want to make the most of every second they have with their kids because according to Jenn, childhood evaporates at an alarming rate and they don’t want to miss it. They want to walk the world with their kids and create memories together that will change lives.

Still not convinced?  Here is what the Millers had to say about home-schooling on the road.

“I think, if there’s one thing I’d like to say to parents who have the dream of traveling with their kids but are afraid to for some reason (education, socialization, relationship issues, whatever) it’s that they should step back from the fears and walk forward toward their dreams.

I was raised travelling and building log cabins and eating turtle and porcupine and black bear as a tiny child. My parents took me out of school as a little kid and again as a teen to travel extensively and it is the BEST thing they could ever have done for me. Your kids will LOVE you for the experiences the world gives them and THANK YOU for being brave enough to swim against the tide.

My teenagers love their life and already have the perspective to realize what a gift their uncommon childhood is. It’s hard when the whole world is doing “one thing” and your heart is pulling you in a totally different direction, but those dreams are inborn and unique and meant to be chased. Life is meant to be an epic Technicolor adventure, not a greyscale photocopy.
If my life broadcasts one message, I hope that’s it: Don’t be afraid, LIVE your dreams.”

Hannah and the boys each have their own blogs which you can go and visit. I just loved reading Hannah’s blog. She writes wonderful stories . http://www.edventuregirl.com (Hannah’s blog) ttp://www.havebrotherswilltravel.com (the boys’ blog)

Here is an excellent article that Jenn wrote which I think says it all about homeschooling.  http://www.vagabondfamily.org/blog/road-schooling/roadschooling-highschool/

When Will Their EdVenture (educational adventure) End?

According to Jenn, they plan to travel full-time for at least another two years.

After that, they plan on building a house in Canada on some property Jenn’s family has there. They even have their eye on a boat in Canada that the boys would like to spend some of their teen years sailing down into the Caribbean, perhaps.

What Will They Do After Their Travelling Adventure Is Over?

Jenn says that they may never work “real jobs” or live a “normal life nor do they have the desire to live the status-quo.

I really love this attitude myself. I think living the status quo is perfectly fine if that is what you really want. But more often than not, we follow the status quo because that is what we think we MUST follow.

Want To Slow Travel Around The World Like the Millers?

I asked Jenn to give me her top tips for families who wanted to travel like they are and here is what she said.

  1. Stop making excuses for why you can’t do it, and DO IT. Don’t waste time, live your dreams.
  2. Create a location independent career, or income streams. Funding is the biggest on going challenge, once you get that sorted, it’s easy.
  3. Surround yourself with the “right” people. Seek out people who are doing what you want to be doing and bravely introduce yourself and ask for help. You’ll be amazed at how many people will move mountains to help you forward on your dream. (I will. Ask me!)

The Miller’s are also very evangelical about encouraging other people to live their dreams and create a passion driven life for their families.

They spend a lot of time helping people forward on their dreams for free.

If you’re interesting in learning more about the Millers you can visit their blog  www.EdventureProject.com.  It really is a good read full of fascinating stories about their family and the lessons they learn on the road.

Jenner wrote an ebook. Bottles to Backpacks: The Gypsy Mama’s Guide to REAL Travel With Kids… with her friend Keri Wellman, in Germany and they are working on a second one that is in a totally different vein.

What Do You Think?

Personally, I just love the Millers story because they are yet ANOTHER great example of what the human spirit can accomplish when you really put your mind to it.


The Millers are my 8th family to be featured in an ongoing series showcasing and featuring families and couples who are travelling full time or for extended periods of time.

Store coming soon Dismiss