What do I need to travel by airplane or travel internationally with my children after divorce?
What you will need if you and your child are U.S. citizens and you and your child are going to travel by air with your child within the U.S. will likely not be as much as what you will need if you and your child are U.S. citizens and you and your child are going to travel internationally with your child. Still, a parental consent letter for international travel with a child will be more than sufficient to cover your needs for domestic travel with the child within the U.S. So for these reasons, this blog post will detail what you need and what I recommend you have to travel with a child internationally.
- Your child must have a passport. To get a passport for a child (whether 16 years of age or younger) follow the requirements of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs. Those requirements can be found by clicking here.
- Unless you either have sole legal custody of your child or meet certain requirements, the consent of both parents is needed to obtain a passport for your child.
If you have sole legal custody of your child, this is what is required of you to obtain a passport for your child:
You must submit evidence of this with the application. Examples include:
- Complete court order granting you sole legal custody of the child, such as a divorce decree or other custody order
- Complete court order specifically permitting you to apply for your child’s passport (photocopy is acceptable)
- Certified copy of the child’s birth certificate listing you as the onlyparent
- Certified copy of an adoption decree listing you as the onlyparent
- Certified copy of the judicial declaration of incompetence of the parent that cannot appear in person
- Certified copy of the death certificate of the parent that cannot appear in person
- If your ex-spouse will not cooperate and give consent for your child to apply for an obtain a passport, then you will need to obtain either a court order granting you sole legal custody of the child, such as a divorce decree or other custody order or a court order specifically permitting you to apply for your child’s passport
If you cannot locate the other parent:
- You must submit Form DS-5525 “Statement of Exigent/Special Family Circumstances.”
- Please complete the form with as much detail as possible.
- The bureau may ask for additional information (e.g., custody order, incarceration order, restraining order) to protect against international parental child abduction.
Letter of Parental Consent for International Travel
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection division of the Department of Homeland Security provides this on its website:
[QUESTION] If a child (under the age of 18) is traveling with only one parent or someone who is not a parent or legal guardian, what paperwork should the adult have to indicate permission or legal authority to have that child in their care?
[ANSWER] U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) strongly recommends that unless the child is accompanied by both parents, the adult have a note from the child’s other parent (or, in the case of a child traveling with grandparents, uncles or aunts, sisters or brothers, friends, or in groups*, a note signed by both parents) stating “I acknowledge that my wife/husband/etc. is traveling out of the country with my son/daughter/group. He/She/They has/have my permission.”
Another good reason for having a parental consent letter for travel with a child (whether domestically or internationally) is because some airlines may require signed consent from the child’s other parent before allowing a child to board the plan. Because entry and departure requirements for travelers often vary from one destination to another, an immigration official may ask to see signed consent from the child’s other parent before allowing a child to leave the country.
As for what Customs and Border Protection recommends a parental consent letter contain, the CPB website provides:
What should a parental consent/permission letter look like? Is there a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) form?
There is not a CBP Form letter but this is a letter you create. The “Parental Consent Letter” should include the following elements:
Contact information for the absent parent(s).
Having the letter notarized is not necessary but highly recommended.
For frequent border crossers, the letter should not exceed one year. It is recommended to have the letter in English.
Here is a sample parental consent letter that I have prepared for some of my clients to use:
To Whom It May Concern:
I, _______________, am [the non-custodial parent] [the father] [the mother] [one of the parents] of the child more fully identified as:
Name: ______________ [first, middle, last], whose photograph is provided below for the purpose of identifying her
Date of birth: ______________
Place of birth: ______________[If the child already has a passport and the child is traveling internationally, you may wish to include the following information in the parental consent letter:]
Child’s U.S. or foreign passport number:
Date and Place of issuance of child’s passport:
Date child’s passport expires:
______________ [name of the child]’s mother (and my [ex-wife] [ex-husband]) is ______________ [name of parent].
U.S. or foreign passport number:
Date and Place of issuance of [other parent’s] passport:
______________ [name of other parent, as it appears on other parent’s passport] has my consent[to travel with our ______________ [son] [daughter], ______________ [child name] internationally as of the date appearing hereon and in the future.] [to travel with our ______________ [son] [daughter], ______________ [child name], to [identify the foreign countries to which the child will travel] during the period between [start date] and [end date]. During that period, our [son/daughter] will be in the care and custody of [ex-spouse] and is anticipated to travel and/or stay with [identify other people the child will be traveling with, if any], the child’s [identify relationship(s), i.e., grandparent, aunt, uncle, coach, neighbor, etc.]. These fellow travelers can be reached at:
[Complete address of person(s) with whom child will be traveling/staying]
[Telephone number of person(s) with whom child will be traveling/staying]
[E-mail address of person(s) with whom child will be traveling/staying]
This photograph is a picture of [child] that accurately depicts her as of the date appearing hereon:
[include a recent, small, but clear photograph of the child here]
_______________________________________[printed out name of parent signing] [Father/mother] of [child’s name]
STATE OF __________________________ )
COUNTY OF _______________________ )
On this _____ day of ________________ 2018, personally appeared before me the undersigned, a Notary Public in and for said county and state [signing parent’s name], who is known to me to be the person who signed the foregoing document and who acknowledged to me that he signed it freely and voluntarily.
WITNESS my hand and official seal.
Pro tip: Bring your child’s birth certificate (or certified copy of the birth certificate) with you to the airport to verify the child’s age and, in some instances, your relationship to the child.
Travel Provisions You May Want to Include in Your Decree of Divorce, if Your Decree Has Not Yet Been Issued
If you are not yet divorce and believe you might be traveling by airplane or internationally with your children after divorce, you may wish to cover some of these requirements in the provisions of your Decree of Divorce. You may want to include the following provisions in the decree of divorce:
- express authorization for either parent to obtain a passport for each child;
- express authorization for either parent to travel internationally with any or all of the children without having to obtain a letter of consent from the other parent
- If there are compelling reasons to restrict a parent to traveling internationally with your children, or to restrict a parent to traveling with your children without your express written consent each time the children travel with that parent, you will want to ensure that you request that such provision are provided in your decree of divorce as well.
International Child Kidnapping Laws
For a good general explanation of the laws governing international parental abduction (kidnapping), visit this section of the U.S. State Department’s website on the subject.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277