International Travel with Children Considerations

Posted on September 21, 2011 10:44am

Do I need permission from my spouse or ex-spouse to obtain a passport for my child?

Yes. Whether you are married, divorced, or single, federal law requires that both parents consent to the issuance of a U.S. passport for any child under the age of 16.

The easiest way to comply with the two-parent consent requirement is for both parents to appear in person when their child applies for a passport. However, if one of the parents is unable to attend, a notarized letter evidencing his or her consent to apply for the child’s passport will satisfy the requirement.

For divorced parents or parents that never married, obtaining consent may be especially complicated. For this reason, there are a few narrow exceptions to the two-parent consent requirement. These exceptions include:

  1. Sole Legal and Physical Custody. If the applying parent can present proof that the other parent has no physical or legal custody rights, then the two-parent consent requirement may be waived.
  2. Unknown Whereabouts of a Parent. If the applying parent can show that the non-consenting parent’s whereabouts are unknown, the two-parent consent requirement may be waived.
  3. Special Provision. If the applying parent has a copy of a child custody order or parenting plan that grants him or her the authority to obtain a passport for the child, the two-parent consent requirement may be waived.
  4. Emergency. If there is a sudden emergency that threatens the health or safety of the child and requires the issuance of a passport, the two-parent consent requirement may be waived.

More information about obtaining a passport for a minor can be found here.

After you successfully obtain a passport for your child, it is always prudent to travel with documents that evidence your relationship to the child, your authority to travel with the child, and the other parent’s authorization of the trip. Documents you should consider taking in your carry-on luggage include: a parental consent form signed by the other parent; a copy of your divorce decree; a copy of your parenting plan or child custody order; and a copy of your child’s birth certificate or adoption decree.

I am going through a family law proceeding and I am worried my child’s other parent will take him or her out of the country, what can I do?

If you are concerned that any person might take your child out of the country without your consent, you can register your child in the U.S. Department of State’s Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program. If your child is registered in the program, you will be contacted by the Department of State whenever a passport application for your child is submitted. In this way, you can officially note your objection to international travel with your child and put U.S. passport agencies, embassies, and consulates on notice. The Request for Entry into the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program can be found here.

If you are involved in a family law proceeding, you may move for a temporary order to restrain the other parent from taking your child out of the country. The court may enter an order restricting the child’s travel and/or require the surrender of the child’s passport to a designee of the court. If the court issues such an order in your family law case, you should send a copy of the order to the Department of State to keep on file in order to ensure that any application for a new passport for the child is denied.

McKinley Irvin represents many clients in international family law issues – read more here.

I owe child support arrears and am having trouble obtaining a U.S. passport, what can I do?

Persons who owe more than $2,500 in child support arrears are unable to obtain a U.S. passport. If your passport application was rejected due to outstanding child support owed, your name is on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) list of outstanding arrears. To have your name removed from this list, you must first pay off your outstanding child support owed to the appropriate state enforcement agency. Once payment has been received, you should contact the enforcement agency and make sure they send a report verifying your payment to the HHS. Once the HHS has received the report, your name can be removed from the list of outstanding arrears. Make sure that the HHS has provided the US Department of State with an updated copy of the list before you resubmit your passport application.

If you know you have outstanding child support payments, it is the best practice to pay off such payments before applying for your passport.

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