Whether you’re separated, divorced, married, or living common law and if you plan on taking your child who is under the age of 16 (or even someone else’s child) across an international border without at least one parent not present then you will need to get the appropriate documents signed granting you the “consent” of that absent parent to travel with the child. If you don’t have a signed consent, you could find yourself prohibited from crossing the border with the child by the border official.
If you are planning a trip to the United States, you and the child will need proper identification (usually a valid passport). If the child does not have a passport, you will need the child’s original birth certificate, Canadian Citizenship Card, Landed immigrant records and the like. A passport is always the best option even for children.
In addition to the identification, you may be asked for a “Travel Consent” signed by the absent parent(s). Travel Consents can be found on any internet search. The consent must be signed by the parent(s) and witnessed. In addition, it must also include information that confirms that the signing parent is aware that you are travelling with the child. The consent must also include specifics of the travel, such as: Flight numbers for departures and arrivals, passport numbers, contact information of where the child will be staying, and contact information from the absent parent so that the border official can verify the information and consent.
Foreign Affairs Canada strongly recommends that you have a consent for each and every trip across an international border. They also recommend that the consent be verified by a Notary (lawyer) or a commission of oaths or someone who has the authority to administer an oath or affirmation so that the validity of the letter will not be questioned.
If there is a current court order that governs custody of the child, you may be requested to produce a copy of that court order. It would be prudent that you obtain a certified copy of that court order for the purpose of travelling. If the absent parent is deceased, you may wish to have a certified copy of the death certificate as well.
It’s not uncommon for a border official to question the child directly about the travel itinerary.
In addition, if you are travelling out of the county by airline, train or bus, you may be required to adhere to any policy of the company concerning travel with a child absent a parent. The international Civil Aviation Organization has recommended that every individual who travels by air have a passport, a policy intended to protecting children from abduction and potential exploitation. Therefore, you should enquire directly with the transportation company to ensure that your travel plans comply with their policy.
Additional information about international travel with children can be found at the Passport Office.
Walter Drescher is a lawyer at the law firm of Cobb & Jones LLP. Should you have any questions for Ask A Lawyer, please direct them to the Simcoe Reformer or ask a lawyer of your choice. For more articles, visit the Library page at www.cobbjones.ca.