So your divorce or custody battle is at an end and now you want to go with your child to relax for a week overseas. What do you need to do before taking off?
First, if you have not already done so, you will need to obtain a passport for your child. To do this, you and your co-parent will both need to appear in person with the child and provide consent for the passport issuance. If your co-parent cannot be there in person, you will need to bring with you what is called a DS-11 application, accompanied by a signed and notarized Form DS-3053: Statement of Consent from the non-applying co-parent. These forms can be found here.
If you were granted sole legal custody and the custody order does not otherwise restrict the child’s travel, you may be able to obtain the passport by submitting, with the DS-11 application, a copy of the court order granting you sole legal custody instead of the Form DS-3053. You can also obtain a court order specifically permitting you to apply for the child’s passport, if your co-parent refuses to cooperate with you.
Second, you should have your co-parent sign a letter acknowledging that he or she is aware that the child is traveling out of the country with you and that he or she has granted permission for the child to do so. An example of such a letter can be found here. If you have sole custody and your co-parent will not cooperate and provide you with a letter of consent, a copy of the court order may be sufficient.
It is important to follow the necessary procedures to avoid being held up or, worse, accused of international child abduction. Once you have obtained the necessary documents, enjoy your much-needed vacation!
More information from the United States Customs and Border Protection and Department of Homeland Security regarding consent letters can be found at the following links:
Written By: Associate Attorney Micaela Wattenbarger