Traveling with children is a rewarding, although often stressful, endeavor. In today’s highly mobile society, families are scattered across the country, and interstate and international airline travel continues to increase in frequency for the ordinary family.
Over the past decade, increased security and airline industry constrictions have made the logistics of travel increasingly difficult for everyone, from the first class jet setter to the mom and dad who load their kids into coach class for a trip to visit the grandparents in Florida. For divorced parents, the added wrinkle of legal and practical constraints placed upon them by their Divorce Judgment only adds to the headaches. Yet there are a few simple tips that every divorced parent can keep in mind in order to make sure the trips run smoothly and no one is sent home from the airport or the border at the last minute:
- Review your Judgment as soon as you decide you want to travel. Every Divorce Judgment should contain provisions for travel, including the requirements for prior notice to identify vacation dates and to provide travel itineraries. Make sure that you comply with all of these requirements, in writing, well in advance of the deadlines set out in the Judgment. By doing so, you certify your right to travel with your children during your allocated time and can prevent your ex-spouse from attempting any last minute hold ups that have you in court instead of on the beach on the first day of your planned vacation.
- Every child should have a passport. Even if your child is two months old, all travel restrictions are eased if that child has a passport, which is the highest, most authentic form of international documentation and personal identification. A passport can be obtained for a child through the an online application process. The parent need only submit a photograph of the child, proof of U.S. citizenship and identification, and a check for the applicable fees (ranging between $100 and $450 depending on how quickly you want the passport). Expedited passports can be produced as quickly as 24 hours. Divorced parents need to note that under to federal law, passport applications for minors under the age of 16 must be signed by both parents. A passport will serve a parent well for both domestic and international travel. Moreover, a passport is excellent documentation of where the child has traveled, which allows the non-traveling parent to verify when the child left and when the child returned in case there are any questions of deception in the traveling parent’s agenda.
- Travel with certified copies of your child’s birth certificate and your Divorce Judgment. It takes only a few minutes of your time to make copies of your child’s birth certificate and your Divorce Judgment (or better yet, to obtain certified copies from the County Clerk’s Office). Stick a copy of each in your travel bag and hold it for future use if necessary. The Transportation Security Administration is authorized to demand proof of parentage from any person traveling with a minor child, and although this rarely happens, it is always best to be prepared.
With advance preparation and proper documentation, parents can eliminate one potential headache from the travel itinerary. After that, the only thing left is to figure out how to entertain the kids during the three hour delay while you sit on the runway.