Tips For Solo Parents Travelling With Kids

Guest post by Michelle Kooy, Lawyer, Henderson Heinrichs LLP

Solo Travel With Kids

I’m travelling out of the country with my child during the summer holidays. Is there anything I need to do? 

If you’ve recently had an argument with your ex-spouse about travelling with the kids during spring break, you will appreciate the benefits of dealing with the summer arrangements now.  It’s never too early to deal with travel arrangements, and sooner is better when it comes to planning travel with your minor child.

Solo parents should have a planned travel consent form signed by the other parent, or a court order signed that confirms that they have the right to leave the country without the consent of the other parent. Make sure any requests for authorization to travel are made well in advance to avoid stress.

The Government of Canada website recommends that you have the following documents on hand when travelling with minor children:

1) A copy of the child’s birth certificate.

2) A letter of authorization signed by the parent who is not travelling, containing their address and telephone number.

3) A photocopy of the non-accompanying parent’s signed passport or national identity card.

While a consent letter and photocopy of the non-accompanying parent’s signed passport or national identity card is not a legal requirement for children who are travelling outside of Canada, it may be requested by immigration authorities when entering or leaving a foreign country, or by an airline agent or Canadian official when re-entering Canada.

If parents are separated or divorced and they share custody of the children, the parent travelling with the children should carry copies of the legal custody documents, such as court orders dealing with the children. 

If the parents are separated or divorced and one of them has sole custody of the child, the letter of authorization may be signed by that sole-custodial parent only and the travelling parent should bring a copy of the custody papers along on the trip.

Finally, if one of the child’s parents is deceased, the travelling parent should bring a copy of the death certificate.

Unfortunately, if a travelling parent cannot produce these documents,  he or she may face delays or even a refusal to enter or exit a country.

The best source of information on the consent letter and other documents required can be found on the Government of Canada website.

What happens when the other parent refuses to sign the travel documents?

When travelling outside of Canada, children require their own passports. A parent can apply for a passport for their children if they have custody or are the legal guardian of the children. The parent will need to have documentation such as a birth certificate or an adoption order in order to complete the application.  If the children have another guardian, that guardian will have to sign the application as well.

If the other parent refuses to sign the application, a judge can make a court order that the travelling parent be able to sign the passport application alone and/or give you a court order stating that you may travel with the child without the other parent’s authorization. Keep in mind that the courts are very busy during holiday seasons, including the time leading up to summer holidays, therefore applications for travel should be made as far in advance as is possible.

How can a lawyer help?

If you have questions or need assistance with your holiday travel documents for the summer holidays but don’t know where to start, a family lawyer can help you through the process.

To find out how one of our family lawyers could assist you, contact us.

*Please note, if you are the non-travelling parent and you are concerned that your children won’t be returned, you should seek legal help immediately. You can apply to the courts to have your child’s passport taken away from the other guardian. See our blog post, “What parents should know about the Hague Convention on the civil aspects of International child abduction.” for more information.


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