You have planned for months. You and your children are going to take the vacation to end all vacations this summer. Well, the summer is here, but the whimsical dreams about lazing on the beach and hiking through the rain forest may be dashed if you don’t “know before you go.” Indeed, increased concern about international child abductions has lead the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department to institute certain policies and procedures for single parents travelling internationally with a child. Parents should pay mind to these special considerations, particularly with your summer travel plans here at last.
To that end, it is important to remember that more than a mere verbal agreement is required from your child’s other parent prior to travel, both when applying for a passport and at the time of travel. Here is a quick primer of the type of information you may want to know before traveling:
Obtaining a Passport:
- Every child requires a passport for international travel, regardless of age.
- Both parents must go with their child to apply and sign the DS-11 form in person. This form can be found on the Department of State website. If one parent is unavailable to accompany the child to obtain a passport, the applying parent may bring a notarized Statement of Consent from the other parent, which can also be found at the Department of State website as Form DS-3053.
- If the other parent cannot be located, Form DS-3053 allows the applying parent to explain the efforts made to locate the other parent. It also permits the applying parent to provide proof of sole legal custody or proof that the other parent has been deceased, is incompetent or otherwise unavailable as a means to obtain a passport without the consent of the other parent.
Time of Travel:
- At the time of travel, it is recommended that the travelling parent travel with the same documentation he or she utilized to obtain the child’s passport, including evidence of parental relationship (birth certificate), photo identification, and evidence of United States citizenship.
- It is also essential for the travelling parent to obtain a notarized consent letter from the other parent. The letter should include the dates of departure and arrival, as well as the destination. Increased scrutiny may result if the travelling parent has a different surname than the child with whom he or she is travelling.
- Because each destination country may have different requirements for entry or exit with a minor child, the travelling parents should inquire as to any additional documentation that may be required prior to departure.
NOTE TO PRACTITIONERS: Practitioners should take note of particular concerns surrounding parents who may be travelling from abroad to exercise visitation or parenting time with children located in the United States. Of the significance in that regard is the New Jersey case which made national headlines in 2011, Innes v. Marzano-Lesnevich, in which jury found a matrimonial attorney liable for $1.4 million for giving a client her daughter’s passport, with which the attorney’s firm had been entrusted to prevent the girl’s removal from the United States. The state appeals court recently remitted the verdict by $442,000. Due to these and other such concerns, suggesting that a passport of the child and/or the visiting parent be held for safekeeping at a local police department or by a third party neutral may be best practice when concerns with child abduction may exist.
Eliana T. Baer is a contributor to the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and a member of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Eliana practices in Fox Rothschild’s Princeton, New Jersey office and focuses her state-wide practice on representing clients on issues relating to divorce, equitable distribution, support, custody, adoption, domestic violence, premarital agreements and Appellate Practice. You can reach Eliana at (609) 895-3344, or firstname.lastname@example.org.