Summer Travel for Divorced Parents: Passports for Minors

Summer is right around the corner, which means that families all over the country are planning vacation travel—much of which will occur overseas. In these cases, it's required that children acquire passports before traveling and, for a divorced family, this process has some added wrinkles that, if not addressed, could ground any travel. Let's look at a few critical issues to keep in mind before planning a trip with your child this summer.

Give Yourself Enough Time

This goes for everyone planning to travel overseas: make sure you give yourself time to receive your passport. Generally, it takes anywhere from four to eight weeks for a passport to be processed and issued and even expedited services can take up to three weeks. These processing times, when paired with unforeseen delays for children of divorced families, can easily disrupt travel that's already been booked months in advance.

Parents with Shared Custody

Shared custody is fairly common for divorced families now, and acquiring a passport for children needs to be a collaborative effort. Ideally, both parents should appear with the child at a post office to apply for the child's passport and both parents must sign the provided Form DS-11 provided by the acceptance agent. In the event that only one parent cannot attend this appointment, then the absent parent must sign a DS-3053 form that the acting parent can present to the acceptance agent. This form recognizes that the absent parent is giving the acting parent permission to act alone and that they approve of the passport. The acting parent will have to then sign the DS-11 form alone at the post office. Note that in both cases the child must also be present for this appointment.

Parents with Sole Custody

If a parent has sole custody, a significant burden is on them to provide proper documentation when applying for a passport for their child. This is for security reasons and so that authorities can confirm that a parent is not illegally removing a child from the country.

Parents with sole custody must provide one of the following:

  • The child's birth certificate that lists the acting parent as the sole parent
  • The original court order that establishes the acting parent as the sole custodial parent
  • Certification of Birth Abroad (Form DS-1350) that only lists the acting parent
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) that only lists the acting parent
  • An adoption decree (if the acting parent is a sole adoptive parent)
  • The death certificate of the absent parent
  • Judicial declaration of the absent parent's incompetence
  • Any court document that permits the acting parent's travel with the child
  • Form DS-3053, which states why an absent parent's consent cannot be confirmed

Parents with sole custody must go to the post office with one of the above documents and must sign form DS-11 upon applying. The child must also be present for this appointment.

If You Have a Concern

If you believe that your co-parent is planning on taking your child out of the country against your consent, then you should act immediately by seeking the counsel of a Long Island child custody attorney. It is also advised that you contact the Children's Passport Issuance Alert System, which will flag and halt any passport processing for a child whose parent may be acting inappropriately.

Even when there are no serious concerns, it is important that divorced parents discuss any travel that involves their child beforehand. These trips can be a source of tension for divorced parents, but with enough notice and flexibility with the parenting-time schedule, compromises can be reached and exciting summer trips can still happen.

In high conflict cases, it is prudent for the matrimonial attorney to draft a clause regarding the children's passports, including which parent will hold the passport, how many days' notice the traveling parent must provide the other parent with international travel plans for the children, and how the parents must cooperate in securing renewed passports.

If you are facing a difficult child custody matter, then it may be time to seek trusted legal counsel. At Samuelson Hause PLLC, our team of family law attorneys has more than a century of legal experience. We know the challenges divorced and single parents face and work diligently to provide swift and favorable solutions for those we represent.

You do not have to face your child custody matter without a proven advocate in your corner. Call our firm at 516.584.4685 today