Many newly separated and divorced parents discover that traveling with kids requires even more preparation than it did when they were together. That means if you’re planning to travel over the holidays with your child, it’s time to start preparing – if you haven’t already.
If you have a custody agreement in place, you should know what days you’ll have your child over Thanksgiving, Christmas and any holidays you celebrate as year-end nears. Your agreement should also specify how far you and your co-parent can travel with your child without getting the other’s consent.
If you haven’t codified this yet, make sure you’re clear and in agreement on your plans. It’s best to get something in writing, like a travel consent letter, in addition to more informal communication.
What to include in a travel consent letter
Whether you’re required to or not, it’s wise to draw up a travel consent letter for you and your co-parent to sign. This should include details like:
- Where you’re going and staying
- The dates you’re departing and coming home as well as dates you’ll be in various locations
- Contact information for reaching you (besides your cellphone)
- How often and when your co-parent and child will be communicating
If anyone is traveling with you, whether it’s a friend, significant other or sibling, it’s typically best to disclose that as well.
What other documents should you bring?
In addition to a copy of the signed travel consent letter, it’s best to bring a copy of your custody order detailing your right to travel with your child with you and their birth certificate. If you’re traveling by air, you may need to provide these documents to a TSA or other security agent. Even if you’re traveling by car, it never hurts to have them.
Security and airline personnel and law enforcement agents are trained to be on the lookout for child trafficking. An adult with a child can arouse suspicion – particularly if you have different last names or don’t look anything alike. Even if you’re not suspected of child trafficking, someone who “takes, obtains, retains, or fails to return a minor child from or to the child’s parent (or person with custodial or visitation rights)” can be charged with a felony in Minnesota.
If your co-parent refuses to provide their consent for travel (if it’s required or if you don’t yet have any agreements in place), it’s important to get legal guidance as soon as possible. This can help you successfully present your case to the court.