If you’re flying with your child over the holidays for the first time since your separation or divorce, you might encounter more questions than anticipated from Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents or employees at other security checkpoints.
Some parents are more likely to have to deal with questions and requests for proof of their relationship with your kids than others. These include parents who have:
- Biracial or multiracial children who more closely resemble their co-parent
- Adopted children of a different race or ethnicity than theirs
- Children with a different last name than theirs
While you may be used to random strangers asking intrusive questions about your children if they don’t look like you, it can be unnerving to get them from someone in authority.
Bring plenty of documentation
Nonetheless, it’s always wise for any parent with shared custody who’s traveling alone with their child – no matter what means of transportation they use – to bring along plenty of documentation showing your relationship. This includes a copy of their birth certificate, adoption form (if applicable) and passport (if they have one). If you already have your divorce decree and custody agreement, it’s a good idea to have copies of those as well. Having some family photos on your phone can help considerably.
It’s always a good idea for you and your co-parent to provide each other with a consent to travel form or letter for any kind of travel that’s not in your agreement – such as travel outside the state or country. If you have one, keep that with you.
Agents have to be on the lookout for child trafficking
While it can feel like TSA and border agents are asking intrusive questions, it may help to know that they’re trained to beware of signs of potential child trafficking. Therefore, they likely are just following their training rather than acting out prejudices. Nonetheless, people have been wrongfully detained for suspected human trafficking when travelers didn’t “look” like they were a family.
Having a small file folder of this documentation can help get you through security and onto your flight with minimal delay. Remember also that the more information you can provide, the less likely agents will be to quiz your children (which they are allowed to do).
If you and your co-parent are still working out your custody agreement, make sure you consider your likely travel plans while your children are still minors. This can minimize how often you have to get each other’s consent to travel.