If you or your co-parent has family, business or other connections outside the U.S., you’ll likely want to include provisions about international travel with your children in your custody agreement. Depending on the terms of your arrangement, it may ultimately be crucial to be sure you have permission from your co-parent – whether you’re traveling in the U.S. or abroad – before taking your child out of your home state.
For some parents, however, even their co-parent’s consent to travel with their child won’t necessarily prevent suspicion and questioning at the airport and even aboard their flights. TSA and border agents are trained to be on the lookout for signs of child trafficking, as are airline employees.
Who’s most likely to face questioning?
Men traveling alone with their children are more likely to face numerous questions and requests for evidence of their relationship to their kids than women. Parents who are a different race or ethnicity than their child can also be subjected to lengthy inquiries. If your child is biracial and looks more like your co-parent or is adopted and looks nothing like you, expect some intrusive questions. One travel blogger notes that “it’s almost never a white parent and a white child being accused of human trafficking.” However, a parent and child of any race who have different last names may face questioning.
What to bring with you
As frustrating and unnerving as these questions can be, it’s in your and your child’s best interests to remain polite – and to be prepared. The more documentation you have, the less likely security and airline personnel are to question your child.
Pack a small folder in a carry-on bag with copies of:
- Your child’s birth or adoption certificate
- Your custody order
- Your consent to travel letter signed by your co-parent or court order authorizing this particular trip
Having plenty of photos of your family on your phone can’t hurt either. Note that a consent to travel letter is always wise to have, even if your travel is within your rights under your custody order.
The ability to travel the country and the world is a privilege a lot of children don’t get to enjoy. Your divorce doesn’t have to limit your child’s opportunities. However, being prepared can help you avoid an unpleasant experience at an airport for you and your child. If you have any questions or concerns, it’s wise to seek legal guidance before you finalize your travel plans.