In order to travel outside of the United States, a passport is required for all United States citizens. The process can be tedious and requires everyone to comply with specific rules and regulations to successfully obtain or renew a passport. For minor children, complying with these requirements can be more difficult during or following a divorce.
When applying for a passport for a minor child under the age of sixteen, the passport application must be submitted in person and both parents must be present. If one parent is unable to be present to apply for his or her child’s passport, he or she can still give consent by completing a “Statement of Consent” form, signing the form, having the form notarized, and submitting the form with a copy of the front and back of a government issued ID.
Proof of United States citizenship is also required for a minor child to obtain a passport. A parent can provide a child’s original birth certificate, certificate of citizenship, or a previously expired passport for the minor child. In addition to providing an original copy or certified copy of the child’s proof of citizenship, a photocopy of the same document should also be provided.
Additionally, both parents must provide proof of their parental relationship to the child by providing an original copy of the child’s birth certificate or certified copies of an adoption or divorce decree. A birth certificate can provide proof of the child’s citizenship as well as proof of the parental relationship, but it is important to ensure that an original copy of the birth certificate is provided.
Both parents also need to provide proof of identification and a photocopy of the same. Some approved documents to show proof of identification include:
A valid or expired United States passport;
A valid driver’s license issued in the state where the parent resides;
A United States military ID card; and
A Green Card issued by the United States
A list of additional documents that are acceptable proofs of identification can be accessed here.
As mentioned, the process to obtain a passport for a minor child can be more difficult when the child has divorced parents. Depending on custody orders or the willingness of one parent to participate, there are other requirements that need to be met to apply for a passport for a minor child.
If you are a parent that has sole legal custody of your child, then you have the ability to make passport decisions without the consent of the other parent. In order to successfully apply for a passport for your minor child, you must submit all of the necessary documentation listed above as well as evidence that shows that you have sole legal authority. Acceptable evidence that you can submit to show that you have sole legal custody includes:
A certified copy of the complete court order granting you sole legal custody, whether a divorce judgment or other custody order;
A complete court order specifically permitting you to apply for your child’s passport;
A certified copy of your child’s birth certificate or adoption decree listing you as the only parent; or
A certified copy of the death certificate or judicial declaration of incompetence of the parent that is unable to appear in person.
If both parents share legal custody of the child, then both must consent to the issuance or renewal of their minor child's passport. However, there are instances where one parent is unable to contact or locate the other parent to receive parental consent. If you are unable to locate the other parent, you must complete and submit a “Statement of Exigent/ Special Family Circumstances” form which requires you to illustrate how many attempts you made to contact the other parent to receive his or her consent via various avenues.
The Statement of Exigent/ Special Family Circumstances form also requires you to answer questions regarding whether the other parent is incarcerated or whether any court, in the United States or abroad, has made custody orders regarding you and the other parent. If you answer yes to either of these questions, you will be required to provide additional proof such as child custody order or proof of the other parent’s incarceration. The Statement of Exigent/Special Family Circumstances form along with additional proof regarding incarceration or child custody will need to be submitted with the minor child’s passport application as well.
When the other parent does not consent to the issuance of a passport, you can file a Request for Order with the court asking the court to resolve the disagreement. Although a family court will not issue or revoke a passport, a court can order that consent of both parents is not required to obtain a child’s passport.
Sometimes the issue isn’t getting the passport issued but getting the actual passport from the other parent in order to travel. Parents who often travel internationally include provisions in their custody agreements that state how and when the actual passport will be transferred back and forth between the parents. Common language that may be used in a custody agreement for this purpose may state that the traveling parent must notify the other parent of vacation plans and flights at least thirty days prior to a trip, and the parent with the passport must hand over the passport within seven days of this notice, or within seven days of the scheduled trip.
If you and the other parent cannot agree on who maintains possession of your child’s passport, you can also request the court make an order on who should possess the passport when neither party is traveling.
If you frequently travel internationally with your children or have an upcoming trip that requires a minor applying for a passport or getting a passport renewed, and are concerned about access to your child’s passport, schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney at Cage & Miles today.