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Why you should get a child travel consent letter before your trip

On Behalf of | Jun 6, 2023 | Child Custody And Visitation

Most divorcing couples who are co-parenting their children detail any restrictions for travel without the notification and approval of the other parent. Often, these restrictions involve out-of-state or international travel or travel over a certain number of miles.

If you’re planning a summer vacation with your child that requires your co-parent’s consent, you need more than a verbal okay or even a text or email with their approval. Your custody agreement or parenting plan likely says “written consent.” A good tool for that is something often called a “child travel consent letter.”

What details should the letter cover?

A thorough travel consent letter helps parents stay informed about the whereabouts of their children, whom they’re with, what they’re doing (mountain climbing, going to Disneyland, etc.) and how to get in touch with them. That means details like:

  • Where they’re traveling (and perhaps an itinerary if the travel includes multiple stops)
  • Where they’re staying (hotel, campground, relative’s home, etc.)
  • Dates of travel
  • Who else besides a parent will be on the trip
  • Emergency contact information for parent and child

If the letter serves as required notification under the terms of your custody agreement, you should have both of your signatures witnessed and/or notarized. If you’re using it more as a courtesy and to keep your co-parent informed, this may not be necessary.

You may also want to include information about when and how often the child and the non-traveling parent will communicate during the trip and stipulate that the co-parent will be notified if the details change.

Keep the letter (and other documents) with you

Bring a copy of the letter with you – especially if you’re traveling by plane. Security personnel and even flight attendants are trained to look for child abduction and trafficking. You should also bring:

  • A copy of the custody order
  • Your child’s birth certificate
  • Any official ID your child has
  • Pictures on your phone of your child at various ages

These things may become crucial to prevent problems if you and your child are of different races/ethnicities or have different last names. Keep them on you. The more documentation you have, the less likely authorities are to question your child.

It’s wise to have legal guidance when drafting a travel consent letter (at least a template for one you’ll both use). This can prevent conflict and confusion that can mar a much-anticipated vacation.