If you are a divorced parent and are planning on crossing the border with your child, it’s not as simple as packing up a suitcase and heading to the airport. One of the most important things you need to do is to ensure your documents are in order.
When travelling with minor children some of the documents you should carry include a copy of your Divorce Decree, copy of Name Change documents if you have reverted to your maiden name, copy of marriage certificate if you have remarried and changed your name, long form birth certificate showing the names of both parents and most importantly, a letter of consent from the other parent.
A letter of consent shows border officials that ex-partner knows you have the child and gives you permission to travel with the child. While it is not a mandatory document, failing to have it can get you delayed or even denied access in or out of a country.
The consent letter is for the child’s best interests, as it helps to guard against child abduction. However, a letter is not necessary if the other parent has been denied access rights. In this case, you should carry a copy of your sole custody agreement or court order.
How Do You Write the Letter?
The letter should indicate who the parents are, and explicitly express permission from the non-present parent that he or she grants permission for the child to travel with the guardian/parent present. The letter should also state the trip’s duration, destination and how both parents can be contacted. It must be signed by the parent(s) that are not travelling with the child, and by an adult witness. The best witness to sign (although this is not mandatory) is a commissioner of oaths, a notary public or a lawyer.
The Government of Canada has a sample consent letter on its website, and also has an interactive form that you can use to quickly and easily complete and print your letter.
What if the Other Parent Denies Consent? If you and your partner or ex-partner cannot come to an agreement about taking the child out of the country, you may require government-based family justice services. If you are a parent that is being bullied about signing a letter and you have a valid concern that the child will be in danger or not be returned to you, immediately seek legal help.
Where can I Learn More?
Visit the Government of Canada’s website for more comprehensive details along with a list of FAQ about this topic.
Don’t let your Travel Plans Go Astray
It’s easy to overlook the importance of a consent letter in the anticipation of a fun holiday with your child, but failure to get this document can derail your plans – fast. If a border official asks for the letter and you don’t have it, they can deny you access in or out of the country. The official may also ask your child a few questions, such as, “who are your travelling with?” and “what is your father’s or mother’s name?” The questions may be bolder, such as, “does your dad know you going on this trip?” Don’t be alarmed. This is all part of the process.
Put getting a consent letter on the top of your to-do list, so you can enjoy making memories on vacation, instead of making a frantic drive back home to get your ex-partner to sign documents.