Going Nowhere Fast, Part I: Using PassPort Controls to Insure Your Child Stays in the U.S.

May 17, 2012

If you plan to take your child anywhere from a fishing trip to Canada to a Caribbean cruise, a divorce can create many complications, especially in getting the Bureau of Consular Affairs to issue your child a passport.  In addition to the normal proofs of identity, photos, applications, and fees, divorced and never-married parents have to work together to get their child’s passport application approved.

Federal law requires both parents to consent in order for a child under the age of 16 to get a passport.  If only one parent consents, that parent must show that he or she has sole legal custody (for example, a court order or a birth certificate naming only one parent) or that the other parent is deceased or legally incompetent.  Any parent who does not appear at the passport agency with the minor must sign a special notarized consent form from the Bureau of Consular Affairs.  If a parent unreasonably withholds consent for the child to travel with the other parent, the traveling parent can seek a court order specifically giving him or her permission to travel abroad with the child.

These days, passports are an essential form of identification for many children.  Passport applications take a long time to process even under the best conditions, so if your child is going to travel internationally, communicate with the child’s other parent well ahead of time.  Even if your child isn’t going backpacking in Europe next month, chances are good that he or she will travel abroad at some point in the future.  If you’re co-parenting a child with someone other than your current spouse, it’s wise to discuss your child’s passport and potential for international travel now, so there are no unpleasant surprises down the road.

This information is general in nature and should not be construed as tax or legal advice.