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If you co-parent and are planning to fly alone with your child

On Behalf of | Feb 18, 2024 | Family Law

If you’re planning your first spring break vacation as a single parent since your separation or divorce, it’s likely going to be more challenging than you’re used to. That can be particularly true if your child is young.

It’s crucial to make sure that you get any necessary permission from your co-parent to travel with your child. Even if you don’t legally need it, it’s always smart to have a travel consent letter signed by both of you outlining the itinerary of the trip. This is also good to have just in case a law enforcement officer asks for it. It can help to have legal guidance at least the first time you draw up one of these letters.

Who is most likely to be questioned?

If you’re traveling by air, be prepared for additional scrutiny at the airport. Remember that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents, other security personnel and even flight attendants are trained to look for signs of human trafficking. An adult (particularly a man) traveling alone with a child can arouse suspicion and lead to added questioning.

There’s often even more suspicion when a parent and child don’t look like they’re related. There have been multiple stories in the media of fathers traveling with their biracial child – and the child — being subject to questioning on the plane and then further questioning by authorities after they land. You can certainly argue that this is unfair and discriminatory. Nonetheless, these personnel have a right to at least make sure that the child in question isn’t in any danger.

No one wants to go through this – or worse, put their child through it. That’s why it’s wise to bring plenty of documentation with you when you travel (particularly by air) to quickly put to rest any questions about parentage. That’s especially important if you have a biracial child, one of a different ethnicity than you are (perhaps because they’re adopted) or if your child has your ex’s last name while you don’t.

What documentation should you bring?

It’s a good idea to have a small folder in a carry-on bag with copies of your child’s birth certificate or adoption papers as well as your custody agreement and travel consent letter. It can help to have photos of your family on your phone. It’s also wise to prepare your child for any potential questioning so that they don’t get frightened or say something to make things worse.

By having this documentation handy (and maintaining your cool, as hard as that may be), you and your child can enjoy your trip without unnecessary delays and disruptions.