Planning a trip is an exciting activity for a family. It does, however, include a number of logistics and can become more complex than just booking a flight and hotel. This is even more so the case for a family after separation.
If you are separated or divorced, there are a number of things to consider when planning a vacation for you and your child(ren), many of which have to be addressed with the non-travelling parent well in advance of the travel date. One of the most important items is a travel consent.
A parent travelling abroad with their child should get the written consent of the non-travelling parent prior to travel.
While a travel consent letter is not legally required, it is possible that you will be asked for proof that you can travel with your child and that you are doing so with the other parent’s permission. This can be requested of you upon leaving or re-entering the country, by both your home country and foreign nations.
How to Get a Travel Consent
If you are separated, there are two main ways to get travel consent:
- A court order or separation agreement which says that no travel consent is required by either parent when travelling abroad with the child.
- Getting a travel consent letter from the non-travelling parent for each trip. This is the more common approach.
Such a letter needs to include detailed information about the travel including dates, flights, times, and basic contact information. The letter must be signed by the non-travelling parent. The Government of Canada has a travel consent letter online that they provide as a template. Such a letter does not have to be notarized, but it can give it more backing and weight in the eyes of a border guard.
Other Travel Consents
It is possible that your travel destination has its own requirements for a travel consent which will also require the non-travelling parent’s consent. For example, some countries request a sworn affidavit, the child’s birth certificate, and consent letter, all to be provided and signed by the non-travelling parent. Others will require translations of documents which also need to be signed by the non-travelling parent.
It is important to check the Entry/Exit requirements for each country under the Government of Canada’s travel advisories.
What if I Have Sole Custody or Decision-Making Authority?
Even if you have sole custody of your child, a travel consent document is still something you should ask the other parent to sign. Unless your separation agreement or court order specifically says you do not need the other parent’s consent to travel abroad, you should have a consent letter. An agreement or order generally saying you can travel with the child does not often cut it because that type of provision does not specifically address consent.
Even if a parent does have a document like a blanket travel consent (a document saying consent is never needed because one signed letter permits all future travel), or has a document dispensing the consent requirement, it is still suggested that the parent bring their court order or agreement with them as a precaution.
Each family’s situation can have many layers and unique details. It is recommended that parents speak with a lawyer about the legal issues that may apply to them and specifically, to international travel with their child.