A lot of people will be flying over the holidays for the first time in several years. Maybe you’re among them. A lot has happened in the past few years. If one of those things includes separation or divorce, you may be flying alone with your child for the first time to visit family, friends or maybe your co-parent.
You may encounter more scrutiny than you expected from Transportation Security Administration (TSA), customs or other security agents at the airport. It can be frustrating, but by being prepared (even overprepared), you can help things go more smoothly.
You should of course, have permission to travel with your child through your custody agreement or a “consent to travel” agreement worked out with your co-parent. Bring this documentation along to show it just in case you need to.
Some parents and children may attract more scrutiny. For example, maybe your child is a different race than you or mixed race, either because your co-parent is another race or your child was adopted. Some agents may want to see proof of your relationship.
The same is true if your child has a different name than you. While that’s increasingly common, it can still be cause for questions.
While this added scrutiny can be frustrating and even make you angry, it’s important to remember that these agents are trained to look for signs of child trafficking. It’s in your and your child’s best interests to politely produce the information they ask for.
What should you bring along?
It’s a good idea to have a small folder of documentation that fits in one of your carry-on bags that includes:
- Your child’s birth certificate and/or adoption certificate
- Your child’s passport (if they have one and even if you aren’t traveling abroad)
- Your divorce decree, custody agreement and, as noted, your consent to travel form, if you have one, signed by you and your co-parent
It’s also a good idea to load up your phone with pictures of you and your child, as well as your co-parent over the years to further prove your relationship.
If you’ve only gotten verbal or informal approval from your co-parent for this trip with your child, it’s wise to codify it so there’s no room for misunderstanding or unnecessary conflict. Be sure you have legal assistance when you do this.