Missing Passport Isn’t Enough to Prohibit Travel

Gerges v. Gerges, No. 08-19-00006-CV, 2020 Tex. App. LEXIS 1614, (Tex. App.—El Paso Feb. 26, 2020, no pet. filed)

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Facts Mother alleged that there was a potential risk of international abduction and requested that Father be enjoined from removing the children from the U.S.  The evidence showed that the parties had jointly applied for the older child's passport to visit Husband's family in Egypt.  The passport was never used, and although both parties agreed that the passport was missing, there was no evidence that Husband intentionally hid the passport from Mother.  Father informed mother he could not find the passport, and Mother notified authorities it was missing.  There is no evidence that Husband took any steps to apply for a new passport or any other travel documents for either of the children.  The evidence showed that Husband was financially secure, and held a job as a software engineer in the United States for the past five years.  There was no evidence that Husband had recently closed any bank accounts, sold any property, liquidated any assets, or terminated any leases. In fact, he had recently purchased a home in Keller, Texas, as he believed it was in a good school district for the children.

Result There was insufficient evidence to support a finding that international risk factors existed under the Family Code, including the factors indicating that Father recently engaged in planning activities that could facilitate the removal of the child from the United States.  Tex. Fam. Code 153.502(a) (4).  Wife's argument that Husband's failure to produce the passport was "suspect" was not persuasive.  The court described the record as being "devoid" of any evidence of other factors indicating he was planning to remove of the children from the country within the meaning of the Family Code.   Father was employed, financially stable, and had recently purchased a house in the area.  The appellate court dissolved the portion of the judgment that imposed international abduction prevention measures.