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Things to Do If You Think Your Marriage Is in Trouble


Get a court order, NOW! (See Things to Do in Court)


If your spouse wants visitation, have his or her passport in your possession or have supervised visitation, or both.

Try to have your spouse sign a statement that clearly acknowledges that your local court has exclusive jurisdiction over all issues concerning your child, including legal custody, care and control, physical possession, visitation, and support.

If your child is a dual national,

    1. By certified mail or express delivery, receipt required, write the foreign embassy and consulate and provide them with a certified copy of your court order. Also, if it is an emergency, fax the information.
    2. Ask the foreign embassy not to issue a passport or a visa for your child. Foreign countries are not required to comply with a court order issued by a U.S. court.
  • If your child has a passport, put it in a place of safekeeping--outside your home.
  • Other passport considerations include:
    1. Telephone the U.S. government's passport office (1) to request that your child's name be placed on the passport lookout system. Then if an application is made for a passport for your child, you will be notified before the passport is issued--and before the applicant is told that you are going to be informed of the application.
    2. You will need to follow up your telephone request with a written request.
    3. Try to obtain a court order that grants you sole custody. If you cannot get an order for sole custody, seek a court order prohibiting your spouse from requesting the issuance of passports or duplicate passports as the case may be. You also can seek a court order prohibiting travel outside your state or outside the United States.
    4. You can ask for the passport lookout even if you do not have a court order. If you do have a court order, then supply a copy of that order with your written passport lookout request. Then if a passport is applied for, the court order is sufficient justification for the application to be denied.
    5. If the kidnapping parent is the subject of a federal criminal warrant, you can ask that his or her passport be revoked by the passport office. You will need to supply the passport office with a copy of the warrant, the parent's name, date and place of birth, and possible whereabouts.

  • Gather some useful family information
    1. Prepare a detailed chronological narrative of your entire relationship with your spouse, starting with a thumbnail sketch of each of you at the time you met. Then write about all significant events chronologically. Include education; assets; places of residence; country of origin; name of siblings; parents' names and addresses; health problems, including any prescription medications needed on a regular basis; financial details of assets, liabilities, income, and expenses; child's history; and other relevant information.
    2. Often it is useful to have photographs (recent photographs if possible) of your spouse's parents, his or her siblings, and even the siblings' spouses and children. Frequently, kidnapped children are taken to the homes of these relatives.
  • Collect information pertaining to your relationship with your child.
    1. Begin to obtain affidavits of school teachers, pediatrician, family members, friends, and neighbors attesting to your good relationship with your child, your child's apparent good health, and in general how much your child has bonded with you as exhibited by your interaction and care.
    2. These items can be used to deflect possible charges by your spouse that your child has been mistreated by you, such that it would be dangerous to order the child returned.
  • Collect information pertaining to your spouse's relationship with your child.
    1. Begin to obtain affidavits that demonstrate your spouse's poor relationship with your child and any mistreatment of your child, prior psychiatric history or manifestation of mental illness, illegal use of controlled substances, excessive use of alcohol, etc.
    2. Collect and have multiple copies of hospital records, doctors' reports, and police reports that document trips to the hospital or other health care professionals to treat injuries inflicted by your spouse and interventions by the police department or reports by any Division of Social Service or Child Welfare agencies.
    3. All of the above items can be used to help show that your child is in danger by being with your spouse or that your spouse has not been the child's primary caretaker.

      Office of Citizenship Appeals and Legal Assistance, Office of Passport Services, U.S. Department of State, 1425 K Street N.W., Room 300, Washington, D.C. 20522-1705; Telephone: (202) 326-6168; Facsimile: (202) 326-6173. Be prepared to provide your child's full name, date of birth, place of birth, parents' addresses and telephone numbers, and social security number, if available.

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