With March Break around the corner, many parents will be vacationing with their minor children, and in many cases, they will be doing so without the other parent. When both parents are not present at airports and border crossings, things can become complicated. What are parent’s rights with respect to travelling with their children, and what precautions should they take to ensure that they are in compliance with the law and can demonstrate their rights to travel alone with their children?

A Letter of Consent May Be Needed

No matter the relationship status of the parents, when only one parent is accompanying a child across international borders, they will need to demonstrate that they have the consent of the other parent to do so (with some exceptions – see next section). If both parents are in the picture and have access to the child, they travelling parent should aways obtain a letter of consent from the non-accompanying parent for the trip. This will allow the accompanying parent to demonstrate to border officials that the other parent is aware of the trip and has consented to it, despite the fact that they are not there.

It is always recommended that a travel letter be specific rather than vague. This means that it will not suffice to obtain a ‘blanket’ letter saying that a parent has consent to travel with a child anywhere, for any reason. If one parent is taking the children to Disney World, for example, the letter should include specific information, including the flight information, the dates of the trip, the hotel accommodations and the passport numbers of those travelling. The vaguer a letter is on details, the more likely it will create complications at border crossings and potentially impact the trip. The Government of Canada has provided a guide to what should be included and even a template letter that can be accessed here.

Custody and Access Issues When Travelling

When parents are divorced or separated, communication is essential to ensure that one parent can travel with their children. However, in some cases, it may not be advisable to sign a letter of consent if you are not the accompanying parent. If you have any concerns at all that the other parent will not return with your child, you should not feel pressured to sign. Your best course of action would be to consult with an experienced family lawyer right away if you are being pressured to sign a letter and you have doubts. They will be able to provide guidance on how to proceed.

If you are the parent seeking a letter signed by the other parent and they are unfairly refusing, you may also need to seek legal advice. For this reason, it is recommended that you request a letter of consent as soon as possible, especially if you anticipate a challenge. This will give you time to address the other parents’ concerns and even facilitate mediation or other legal intervention if need be.

If you are the sole parent with access to the child, you will not need a letter of consent from the other parent, but it is strongly recommended that you travel with copies of documents that establish your parental rights. Have a copy of any relevant court orders that demonstrate the other parent is not in the picture and that you have sole custody. If you are not the child’s biological parent but have guardianship over the child, you should also take documentation with you to demonstrate this fact.

When visiting another country, it is also recommended that parents or guardians check with an embassy office in that country to see if there are any additional requirements that they may need to consider. The last thing you want is to run into an issue with documentation once you are out of the country.

The family law lawyers at Mincher Koeman are exceptionally experienced with respect to child custody and access disputes following the breakdown of a relationship. We will work with you to ensure a custody and access arrangement that fits your family’s specific circumstances. Further, we have assisted multiple clients facing issues or concerns relating to domestic violence in seeking and obtaining emergency protection orders. Contact our office today by calling us at 403-910-3000 or contact us online.

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