If you are contemplating travel over the holiday season, make sure you have the appropriate documents for your family. Every person, regardless of age, must have a passport to travel out of the country. Initial passport applications for children under sixteen (16) years of age must be made in person. Both parents of the child should be present. If one of the parents cannot be physically present, they may complete a parental consent form instead. This form must be notarized and a copy of the parent's ID must accompany the form. There are exceptions to the requirement of the consent of both parents including court order or proof of sole custody. Additionally, there is an application to obtain passport without the other parent on the basis of exigent circumstances and the unavailability of the other parent. You can visit the U.S. Department of State website for additional details on the requirements to obtain a passport at travel.state.gov.
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If you share custody of your children, you will also likely need the other parent's consent or court approval before leaving the country. A standard custody provision would provide for at least thirty days advance notice to the other parent and all details of the itinerary/contact information for the children while away. It is good practice to include travel restrictions in your custody order. Parties should pay attention to which country the other parent intends to travel to and whether that country belongs to the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and would recognize a U.S. custody order if necessary. If you are nervous about the other parent taking your child out of the country without your consent, you can sign up for the Child's Passport Issuance Alert Program through the U.S. Department of State. Any party considering leaving the country with a child without permission should note international parental kidnapping is a federal crime that can carry a several year prison sentence.