Are you taking your child on a short getaway over their winter vacation or maybe already making plans to travel somewhere together over spring break next year? If you’re newly separated or divorced from their other parent and sharing custody, you’ll find that you need to do a little extra planning to avoid running into a conflict with your ex’s plans as well as their wishes.
If you already have a custody agreement and parenting plan, you’ve likely detailed what kind of travel requires the other parent’s consent. For some parents, it’s out-of-state or international travel. Some specify a particular number of miles or duration.
Even if you’re within the parameters of your agreement that don’t require consent, it never hurts to draw up a travel consent letter and get it signed by the other parent before you leave. That’s crucial if you don’t yet have codified agreements, consent is required or if you’re traveling by air or other public transportation.
These letters help ensure that the non-traveling parent knows where their child is. They can also help prevent problems with law enforcement officers or others in authority who may question your relationship with your child.
Airport security personnel and even flight attendants, for example, are trained to be on the lookout for signs of child trafficking. Unfortunately, a single adult with a child (especially if they’re of different races or ethnicities) raises red flags.
What information should you include in a travel consent letter?
There’s no one right way to draft these letters. They should, however, at least include basic details like:
- Dates you’re leaving and returning
- Dates when you’ll be in particular locations (basically, an itinerary)
- Where you’ll be staying (hotels, campgrounds, Airbnbs, relatives’ homes and so forth)
- Contact information (preferably phone numbers besides your cellphone)
- When and how the non-traveling parent and child will communicate
- Names of anyone traveling with you
It’s wise to have your signatures notarized on the letter. If you’re doing this with legal guidance, notarization is easy.
What other documents should you bring?
It’s always a good idea to bring a copy of your child’s birth certificate, your custody order and identification for your child. If you have family photos on your phone, those can be helpful as well.
This may seem like a bit much. It can, however, prevent situations that can frighten your child and ruin your vacation. Further, making regular use of travel consent letters can give both you and your co-parent peace of mind.