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Rules for Child Passports When Custody Is Shared


One of the greatest technological advancements of the modern age is the ease of travel across the world. Getting on a plane and landing in another hemisphere or continent is not the daunting task it was just 100 years ago. The modern ease of travel means people are more willing to relocate and visit places across the world, and this tendency does not disappear when a person shares custody of a child following divorce. Traveling with a child outside the country will almost always leave the other parent feeling uneasy, because if the parent in physical custody of the child decides not to bring the child home, the other parent’s ability to intervene will be complex and limited, even in the best of situations. The loss of control, physical distance, and extended time away from one’s child is hard for any parent to bear, and in the cases of divorce, requires placing a large amount of trust in the other parent. A child’s passport is a golden ticket to freely move the child around the world at will, and when parents are divorced, the application to obtain this vital document, as well as which parent will have physical possession of it, can become contested issues. A discussion of the rules governing passports for children under the age of 16, and options when the other parent is not available, will follow below.

General Rule

A passport application for a minor under the age of 16 requires the consent of both parents, and the physical attendance by each parent and the child at the local authorized office, usually a post office, when the application is submitted. Children over 16 only need the consent of one parent since they have more autonomy and are closer in age to adulthood. The premise behind the requirement that both parents consent to a passport application is to prevent one parent from abducting the child, usually in connection with a divorce or custody dispute, without the other parent’s knowledge. Restrictions on international travel are often included in the parenting plan, and often dictate how often, how long, and where the child may travel with each parent.

When a Parent Cannot Attend or Will Not Consent

The attendance of both parents at a passport application site may not be possible or practical for a number of reasons, most common being the other parent is not involved in the child’s life or refuses to give consent. However, if a parent simply cannot attend, he/she can fill out a “Statement of Consent” form available from the U.S. Department of State to satisfy this rule. Without this form, though, obtaining a passport will require:

  • a court order authorizing the issuance of the passport;
  • a court order granting the present parent sole custody of the child;
  • a copy of the child’s birth certificate on which only one parent’s name is listed; or
  • a statement explaining why special family circumstances justify bypassing this requirement.

If the other parent unreasonably withholds consent to the passport application or use, the parent seeking the travel document can petition a court to compel the other parent to issue his/her consent or surrender the passport to the other party. In addition, if a parent fears the other will attempt to apply for a passport without his/her knowledge, the parent can place the child’s name on the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program. Enrollment in this program means the parent requesting the alert will receive a notice to verify consent to a passport application in hopes of thwarting an attempt to remove the child from the country illegally.

Contact an Orlando Family Lawyer

Your child’s safety and whereabouts are always a primary concern, and applying for a passport for international travel often provokes fear, sometimes justified, about the possible implications. The attorneys at the Orlando law firm Donna Hung Law Group understand the concerns of both parents, and will work to protect the interests of the child, as well as find a reasonable resolution for all parties. From the collaborative process to litigation, this law firm can handle all your needs. Contact us at (407) 999-0099 for a confidential consultation.