12/15/2015 04:53 pm ET Updated Dec 15, 2016

Top Tricks to Keep Your Spouse From Taking Your Child Out of the Country During Divorce

If you are married to a foreign citizen, have a child together and your marriage is not going well, you have more to worry about than someone married to a U.S. citizen. If your child has a passport, you may be concerned that your spouse may sneak out of the country with the child. Your divorce lawyer can advise you on how to protect yourself from potentially never seeing your child again.

The first step would be to have your attorney express your concern in a document, filed with the court where you live, asking for an order temporarily giving you sole custody of the child. This document will not be served on your spouse and that way your spouse is not alerted to leave the country before the judge makes a ruling on it. The court can sign the order and then set a hearing where your spouse can then express any opposing position.

The order that the court signs will state that you are to retain the child's passport at all times and that no new request(s) for a replacement passport can be made to the U.S. Department of State without an order from the court allowing that to happen. After the court makes the order effective through the remainder of the case, your lawyer can then contact the Department of State and follow their procedures to register the order with them and make sure that your spouse cannot obtain a new passport for the child, even by saying that the original was merely lost.

Our office was involved in a particularly "James Bond" type of episode where the child was actually with the foreign citizen spouse outside the U.S. when the concern arose. By contacting the State Department here, and the U.S. Embassy in that foreign country, we were able to help our client go to that country and bring the child back to the U.S. while carrying a certified copy of our local divorce court order requiring the return of the child.

Bottom line: When your marriage to a foreign citizen is falling apart, there are steps you can take to avoid the unspeakable horror of never seeing your child again.

Stann Givens has been practicing law in Florida for 41 years and is the founding partner of Givens Givens Sparks. He has been Board Certified by the Florida Bar as a Marital and Family Lawyer since 1991, on the list of "Best Lawyers in America" since 1998, and been named a "Super Lawyer" since 2006.