Traveling to another country with the children can be a great experience. Yet, each year parents traveling alone with their children find their travel plans cut short because they don’t have the right paperwork.
As a divorcing Reston parent, it’s best to ensure you have the necessary documentation before you book a flight. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers have a remit to prevent child trafficking and kidnapping. So expect them to ask you for paperwork at the airport in addition to your passports and flight tickets.
You need to prove two things:
You have permission from the other parent
Just because you have custody of your child does not mean you have the right to take them out of the country. Doing so could affect the other parent’s custody rights so you need a letter from them saying it’s OK to travel with the child. If you are having trouble getting their permission, you might need to get permission from a court instead
The child is your child
You know your child is your child and your child knows you are their mom or dad, but the TSA officer doesn’t know that. They may be especially suspicious if your child doesn’t look like you or if, when they check your passports, they see your child doesn’t have your surname.
Documentation such as a notarized copy of your custody agreement, the child’s birth certificate, or if relevant, adoption papers, can help ease your passage through to the departure lounge. Remember that officials in your destination might ask to see the same sort of documentation when you try to enter or leave their country.
Air travel can be pretty stressful as it is so learning more about what documents you need can reduce the chance that TSA officers make it even more so.