Whether you’re traveling with your kids by plane, train, bus, or automobile, if you’re a single parent there’s more to think about than just making sure you’ve packed everyone’s clothes. From obtaining a passport for your child to simply booking a trip when you and your children have different last names, single parents sometimes encounter unique challenges. To make traveling with your kids a little less stressful, here's a heads up on the travel rules all single parents should know— whether the other parent is in the picture or not.
When The Other Parent is in the Picture
1. Check Your Custody Agreement
When you were finalizing custody, you probably weren’t thinking about all the cross-country or overseas travel you planned on doing as a solo parent. Frankly, you were probably still wondering how to make a trip to the bathroom as a single parent!
Before you make plans to travel, take a good look at that agreement again. As Circle of Mom member Brandy B. explains, "Usually if a child is in a joint custody situation, [for] all out of state travel, whether on a plane, train or even a personal car, both parents need to grant permission."
If you haven't yet hammered out a custody agreement, Circle of Moms member (screenname: "LovingMom") suggests stipulating travel rules when you do. According to the agreement she worked out with her ex, their son not only has to have a current passport at all times, but the parent who is not traveling with him on any particular trip, "must give written consent in order for [the] child to be able to leave the country with the other parent." They even agreed on steps to follow in case one of them objects to the trip.
2. Get a Consent to Travel Form
Assuming the other parent doesn’t have an issue with you traveling with your child, have him sign a Minor Travel Consent Form (like the one available on the U.S. Passport Service Guide website). In addition to information about your travel plans, the form provides your ex's contact information and signature, showing an agreement to the plans and a willingness to be contacted if there are questions.
It's also a good idea to have this form filled out and notarized if you are married and traveling alone with your children. Circle of Moms member Megan C. says she always has a consent form signed by her husband, not just because she and her son have different last names, but also because their skin tones are markedly different, and when they travel alone together she likes to be prepared for the possibility of questions about whether she really is his mother.
3. Carry a Copy of Your Custody Agreement
Although, as Circle of Moms member Amber S. asserts, it seems unlikely that a mom would have to prove that she's the custodial parent when traveling alone with her child in the U.S., strict government rules that are designed to prevent parental abductions suggest you might want to err on the side of caution. The primary focus of these rules is abductions via international travel, but the U.S. Department of State still recommends traveling not only with a copy of your child’s birth certificate, but a copy of your custody agreement as well.
When the Other Parent Isn’t in the Picture
It may seem easier to make travel plans when you don’t have an ex to check in with, but some moms actually find it more difficult. Take, for examples, Circle of Moms members Jessie and Jeana A., both of whom have full custody of their sons and no contact with their sons' fathers. Both women had trouble obtaining passports and other travel documents without the written consent of the absentee dads. Luckily, there are options in place for moms like Jessie and Jeana.
Though it's time-consuming and may require some extra work on your part, the application for a U.S. Passport for a minor includes a downloadable "Statement of Special Circumstances" form. This is where you can explain the absentee parent's unavailability to sign the document and provide information about your attempts to make contact.
Mom Felicia T. offers a word of caution though: make sure you have legal proof to back up your assertion about the father's unavailability.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.