Vacationing with your child after separation or divorce can be a challenge if you and your co-parent have trust issues. If either of you plans to take your child out of the area to visit family or simply to vacation, it’s crucial to get an agreement in place that specifies when you need your co-parent’s permission and what kind of information about your trip you must share with them.
If you’re traveling by air, you could face additional challenges at the airport. That’s especially true for parents who may not look like their children. If you have a biracial child who looks more like your co-parent, an adopted child or even if your child has a different last name, expect additional questioning from Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents and other security personnel.
These questions can seem rude and intrusive, and you probably encounter them regularly. However, it’s important to remember that TSA, Homeland Security and other personnel are trained to look for children who may kidnapping or child trafficking victims. An adult traveling alone with a child of a different race or ethnicity can be a red flag, even though it’s not an uncommon occurrence.
Bring plenty of documentation – and patience
The best way to prevent this from causing you to miss your flight or lose your temper is to be overly prepared. That means bringing documentation of your relationship to your child and your parental and custody rights.
Put a folder in your carry-on bag with your child’s birth certificate, adoption papers (if applicable), passport (if you’re traveling outside the country), your custody agreement and letter of consent to travel from your co-parent, if you have one. It’s also helpful to have photos of your child with both parents on your phone.
The more documentation you have, the less likely it is that a security employee will question your child directly (which is permitted). If your child is old enough, prepare them for the security process so they don’t get anxious and upset.
Don’t make assumptions about travel with your child. Be sure that you have any permission required by your custody order before you make plans. Even if you don’t need one, it’s helpful to have a consent to travel letter from your co-parent. Having legal guidance can help you and your child enjoy your trip and better prevent any problems with your co-parent.