The Deal Mommy

Single Parent Travel Consent Form: What to Know Before You Go

single parent travel consent form
Yes, I’m scrambling again. 48 hours from departure to Mexico City with Deal Girl and I haven’t even started doing laundry so I can start packing! One detail, however, is crossed and dotted: the single parent travel consent form is completed and on its way to be notarized. I’ve found a couple of tricks to keep handy next time I need a permission slip from Deal Dad to give to the authorities.  I’m sharing them with you in this handy cheat sheet.

Why do I even need a consent form? It’s my kid! 

I know.  However, there have been messy divorces where a non-custodial parent exited the US to avoid returning the child. The US does NOT require this form but the Border Patrol’s website says, ominously:

While CBP may not ask to see this documentation, if we do ask, and you do not have it, you may be detained until the circumstances of the child traveling without both parents can be fully assessed.

Sounds like a fun way to spend an afternoon!

More importantly, many other countries DO require parental consent forms. A few, such as South Africa, go much farther than just the letter. Even when a country isn’t supposed to need a letter, as is the case with Mexico, many cases of it being demanded are reported to the US Embassy each year .

What needs to be in the letter?

US Border Patrol put out a handy list of letter requirements but I found something better. Here’s a letter that already has them filled out! Thanks to all you have to is print, fill in the details, and get it notarized.

If you are have a situation like sole custody or death of the 2nd parent you may also have to carry a copy of the relevant documents.

Great, but I have a life from 9-5 Monday to Friday. How on Earth am I supposed to get to a notary?

My former go-to for a notary was our local bank.  However, those hours definitely didn’t help out when Deal Dad needed to sign the form and Monday was a bank holiday. Fortunately I found an alternative: UPS Stores have a notary on staff and MUCH friendlier hours than a bank. I’d recommend calling before heading out just to verify the notary isn’t home with the flu. Best part? It’s only $5 to get a form notarized. Bye Bye Bank!

In over 10 solo border crossings with the kids I’ve only been questioned about the lack of a 2nd parent once: leaving Canada. At Montreal airport the Border Patrol agent asked me where the kids’ father was. (I offered the letter but she didn’t look at it.) She then asked Deal Kid, “You’re not being kidnapped, are you?”  Being 9 and my kid he of course responded “Yes, Ma’am, I am.”  Fortunately the female agent looked to be a Mom herself and had a sense of humor!

Have you been asked to produce a consent form? Where were you and were you entering or leaving? Were you prepared? Please share your experience in the comments.

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12 thoughts on “Single Parent Travel Consent Form: What to Know Before You Go

  1. Kate

    I’ve travelled alone with my child at age 0-3 across maybe 20 border crossings in europe and Asia and only ever been questioned on this in Canada as well.

    Curious to hear other borders people have actually been questioned. From my friends it seems extremely rare. Only ones I’ve heard for far that cared to ask so far were Canada and Cuba.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      I’m curious to see how Mexico goes- will let you know soon! I have to say I’m still doing the form from now on. May be an overabundance of caution, but get just caught out just once…

  2. Lisa

    I haven’t crossed a border with my son yet, but I wonder what a single mother by choice (ie anonymous sperm donor) should do? Obviously there isn’t a second parent in the picture.

  3. MickiSue

    Boy do I ever have a story. A horror story. Many years ago, we decided to take the kids to Tulum for a vacation. One couldn’t go, he had finals, but my oldest and two youngest came along. Only the youngest was under 18; he was 16.

    A couple weeks before we left, I called Northwest Air to see what ID the boys needed, as the rest of us had passports. I was told that they needed only their birth certificates, and that was all that was said. I’d only left the country with them by car before, into Canada, and had had no issues, so it didn’t occur to me to ask about the fact that I was divorced from their dad.

    At the airport, at 4 am, the clerk noticed that I, the kids, and my husband all had different last names. I told mentioned that I was divorced. She was horrified, and told me I needed a letter from their father. When I protested about not having been told anything about that (and the reservations were in front of the person’s eyes, as I talked on the phone) she looked up the regulations, and would NOT issue a boarding pass for my son until and unless he got the letter.

    As we were waiting for her to look up the regulation, I muttered to my husband, “I should have just told her he was dead.” She heard me and snapped, “Then I’d need a notarized death certificate!”

    So, at 4:30 am, we call his dad. Never the most cooperative person, he was his old sweet self, and didn’t arrive till after 6, when he lives 5 miles from the airport. Luckily, one of the clerks who arrived at 6 was a notary, she took care of it.

    But their plane (I couldn’t get on it, I was flying an hour later) was no longer boarding. Luckily, there were seats for them on mine, which actually made the process of getting there easier.

    Of course, at no time during the entire trip were we asked for the stinking letter!

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Yikes! 4:30 AM is NOT the time I’d want to be calling the ex. I’ll bet that was pleasant! Glad you all made it.

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  5. Lila

    Nice to have found this page! Maybe here I can post my question.

    So I got divorced 5 years ago. My ex lives in USA (he hasn’t seen the kids in 4 years, rarely calls but he does pay child support because I made him) Me and my two daughters live in Mexico. I am planning a very long trip around the world and I will worldschool them. I was wondering about this “magical letter” and crossing borders to about 40 countries. How difficult will it be? Do I really need my ex singing this letter ( know I should )? What should this letter say? We are planning to leave in a year and a half. I haven’t told him about our plans yet because he has a very traditional way of thinking and closed minded and will freak out telling me I am crazy and I don’t know if he can stop me from leaving? I am kind of confused on how I should handle this with him and for the sake of this letter. I have traveled with my girls from Mexico to USA to Canada with his “blessed” permission and it was in Canada and Mexico where they did ask me for the letter, not USA. I did have it with me because I had read about these issues before traveling but now I am wondering about the 4o countries we will be traveling to as well. I am quite sure I will be needing this letter just in case but I wonder what it needs to say and how to get him to sign it. I would be much more happier if I didn’t have to go through this with my ex. Grrr, thanks people

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Lila,
      I commend your decision to expose your daughters to the world. To be honest, I think your question requires professional advice to be sure you are covered. Best of luck to you.

    2. Bubblyboo

      Ask a lawyer. I just got a declaratory statement from a court hearing saying I am her sole legal guardian. I had been”begging” him to sign the consent paper for 2 years. I got tired of it. I even had to cancel a cruise because of it. He’s absent by choice, so it really upset me.

      Now 2 years later and $1k later AND missing a day off of work, I got my paper and I can apply without his consent.

  6. Steffi

    A few years ago, my son and I had a trip booked to visit Atlantis in the Bahamas. I had my passport but had actually read online in the travel info that the Bahamas is considered a US territory and my child wouldn’t need a passport. We went to the airport to leave for our vacation and couldn’t board our flight because they claimed the rules applied for overseas travel now due to the child sex-trade. So sometime between the time I booked my trip and the time we tried to board our flight, the rules had changed and nobody informed me. We didn’t get to go on our trip, it ruined my sons birthday excitement and was a horrible full day of telephone conversation trying to negotiate another trip (we ended up doing some exchange and repurchase to go Disneyland, California instead). I still get mildly angry about it because it was two years of tax returns I had saved to go and we haven’t really wanted to rebook the trip, the whole thing was such a disappointment (though we did love Disneyland). I wish I had known this. You would think airline attendants would know what to do. Everyone sort of shrugged their shoulders and got very stern when we asked what they think we should do in this event. I decided to be very stern about where I spend my travel dollars for sure.

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