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Checklist... a letter of consent if only one parent is traveling

Our son will be 17 when we travel to Europe in the spring. He already has a passport (it's only 2 yrs old) and he's used it already for a trip we took to Canada. My wife, son, and I will be travelling together, but I'm wondering if our son's biological father (wife's ex-husband) would really be required to write that letter of consent He's not always easy to get a hold of and it would simply be easier to avoid it, if possible.

I don't recall needing it or being asked for it when we went to Canada. For those who have experienced this can you offer any feedback? Thanks in advance.

Posted by
13225 posts

A 17-year-old boy highly unlikely to arouse child abduction suspicions.

Posted by
4724 posts

A 17-year-old boy highly unlikely to arouse child abduction suspicions.

Never underestimate officials, some can be real jobsworths. My wife and I were questioned when returning to Heathrow with our 16 and 14 year old nieces.

Posted by
50 posts

Yeah, I figured we're probably safe, since it's not like a single parent with a small child. It's both of us with a 17 year old who looks like a college student. But knowing our luck I can just imagine getting stopped and not having that letter with us. Guess we'll just have to get the ex-husband to sign off on it- better safe than sorry I suppose. Thanks for the responses.

Posted by
1331 posts

I would say it depends on his last name. If it is the same as yours I do not know why anyone would be suspicious.

Posted by
50 posts

It's not the same last name. My wife took my name when we married, but our son still has his biological father's last name. We've talked about me adopting him but the ex-husband isn't on board with it. I'd hate to miss a flight on the chance that someone questions it. He's taller than I am and looks like he's in his early 20's, but we're new to overseas travel, so I don't want to chance it if you think there's a chance it could cause issues.

Posted by
8862 posts

so I don't want to chance it if you think there's a chance it could cause issues.

Yes, there is a chance.

What he 'looks' like, age wise or how tall he is does not matter. His passport has his birth date on it.

Posted by
83 posts

In 2004 there was a story in the Boston Globe about a woman who arrived at the airport to fly to Charlotte and then Mexico with her daughter. The gate agent told her that she needed permission from her husband to take her daughter out of the country. Luckily there was a state trooper at the airport barracks who was a notary, she met her husband there, and they just barely made the flight. I expect that you might not need the form, but if you do...

Posted by
5697 posts

Whether or not it was needed, I got a notarized letter from my ex before I took our daughter to Mexico (age 9) and England (age 12) Nobody asked for it, but one less thing to obsess over. And we were travelling with the same last name.

Posted by
50 posts

Ok, I'm convinced. I'm a super big planner and like to cover all possible issues that could arise, so this seems like a no-brainer (even if it is a hassle to deal with the ex-husband). Thanks for all the feedback.

Posted by
50 posts

I just wanted to chime in that I had the same doubts that you did. I hated dealing with my ex but I didn't want to worry about getting stopped before boarding our cruise.
I had that notarized letter in hand but was never asked for it. Better safe than sorry!

Posted by
215 posts

I agree with most...better safe than sorry. My husband flew to Mexico a few days ahead of my daughter, her friend and me. I had notarized permission from the friend’s parents, but never thought in terms of our daughter. The ticket agent at our home airport let her fly but cautioned that we would be detained at the airport upon arrival in Mexico. Several phone calls, and Mexican hotel employees finding my husband on the beach ..taxi to the airport, etc. The funniest thing about this is that immigration in Mexico didn’t see a problem and would have let her in! That said, it’s not worth taking a chance with possible delays.

Posted by
11450 posts

I am a bit confused.. at 17 a child doesn't need to fly with an adult.. so why would he be stopped .

I always got the notarized letter for my kids.. and our stepson.. but that was when they were much younger.. as old as 14.. after that I never bothered.. by the time my sons towered over me I really didnt worry about the agents thinking he was being parentally kidnapped..

Maybe its harder in the States.?

Posted by
415 posts

I am a bit confused.. at 17 a child doesn't need to fly with an adult.. so why would he be stopped

My guess is they're checking for sex trafficking. We never have a problem going through customs. We all have the same unique last name. Sometimes we get the standard custom questions. Upon occasion they'll ask our kids questions that seem pretty innocent on the surface but could catch kids and youth who are victims of sex trafficking.

Posted by
2930 posts

The thing about a 17 year old versus a 3 year old is that they can just pull the 17 year old aside and ask him questions. My experience, even when my daughter was young, is that they never asked for the permission slip. At 17, if it is a hassle particularly, I wouldn't bother obtaining it. No one in my house has the same name, we all have our own. In other countries, it seems, many names are in a household...family names are kept, so don't worry about it as you son can always speak up. They also look at body language, behavior, etc. which your son is not likely to exhibit.

Posted by
8997 posts

FWIW, Last August I traveled through Germany, Denmark,and the UK, with my 12 year-old nefew who has a different last name, and not one Immigration official asked for the letter, or asked any questions about it.

I found it interesting that you had no problems without a letter traveling to Canada on a previous trip. When doing research about it, the consensus was that Canada was the number one stickler when it came to this.......

Posted by
2526 posts

The chance of being questioned seems very remote in these circumstances, but there is some risk given the clear recommendation by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency to have a letter of consent from the other parent.

Posted by
13225 posts

I will repeat. The concern here is based on parental child abduction. There is an international treaty on this issue, known as The Hague Convention on Child Abduction.

https://www.hcch.net/en/instruments/conventions/specialised-sections/child-abduction

This does not come into play here. It is extremely unlikely that preventive measures ( I.e. border protection intervention) would be applied to a 17-year-old boy. He may be months away from his 18th birthday, when he is considered an adult and child custody rules no longer apply. IF ( and I seriously doubt there would be) there are concerns at the airport, they would first address the son., who could easily resolve any concerns. The parents could also show that they have return tickets for all three.

The protective rules are good and appropriate for younger children, who unfortunately can become pawns in a parental custody dispute. I have seen some heart-wrenching cases of that, but all involving children well under ten.

And when people are traveling with nieces or nephews, it is always important to have the consent letter, for many reasons. But a 17- year- old traveling with his mom and step-dad? Not an issue.

Posted by
21865 posts

This is the type of question where it is always better to have it and not need as opposed to needing it and not having it. This applies to ILPs, passports, etc. Granted, you probably will never it but one time you do it could be a big problem.

Posted by
219 posts

I travel each year overseas with my teen children who have a different last name from mine. I carry the notarized letter from their dad. It has never been reviewed at any border even when offered. HOWEVER, I have been asked to produce copies of their birth certificates (establishing that I am a parent) when entering the UK. Fortunately, I travel with copies of those also. At minimum, carry a photocopy of his birth certificate.

Posted by
36 posts

I have taken my daughter to Europe many times alone and had notes and not been questioned.

When she was three, I took her to Canada with my mother as well...and no note. And a three-year-old who wouldn't answer the strange lady's questions. We were held up at the border for over an hour until they got in touch with her father who had to answer a number of questions and she eventually let us in.