A lot of newly separated and divorced parents will be flying alone with their kids for the first time over the holidays. If your child is still young, there’s a lot to manage on your own. The last thing you need is a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent or someone else in authority questioning whether you are indeed your child’s parent and have the right to be traveling with them.
If your travel is within any restrictions in your custody agreement or if you obtained the necessary consent of your co-parent or the court, you should bring a copy of your divorce decree, custody agreement and letter of consent from your co-parent with you so that you can show it if necessary. (This is wise even if you’re not traveling by air.)
Who is most likely to be questioned?
Most security personnel don’t ask for things like that every time they see one adult traveling with a child. However, there are situations that can send up red flags for those trained to be on the lookout for child traffickers. These include:
- A parent with a biracial child who “appears” to be of a different race
- A parent with an adopted child of another race, ethnicity and/or nationality
- A parent with a different last name than their child
If you’re in one of these categories, you’ve probably had more than your fair share of encounters with strangers inquiring about your connection (or mistaking you for a hired caregiver). Therefore, your automatic response when a TSA or border agent asks can be to bristle. However, that won’t help the situation.
Bring plenty of documentation
This may include, in addition to what we mentioned above:
- A copy of your child’s birth certificate and/or adoption form
- Your child’s passport (even if you aren’t traveling out of the country)
- Family photos on your phone with your child at various ages with you and your co-parent
Don’t get upset if a security agent asks your child a few questions (if they’re old enough to speak). That’s a common practice. It’s good to prepare your child but not to the point where they look rehearsed.
If you have questions or concerns about your ability to travel with your child, it’s best to seek legal guidance before you leave.