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Flying alone with your child this summer? Be prepared

On Behalf of | May 29, 2023 | Child Custody

Recently, we discussed the importance of divorced parents obtaining the right to travel outside the state or internationally with their child if they intend to after divorce. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t hit any snags when you’re traveling alone with your child – especially by air.

You may encounter questions about your relationship to your child from Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents and security employees at customs or border checkpoints. The scrutiny may not end once you’re on the plane.

Who’s most likely to come under scrutiny?

Recently, a father who traveled across country with his teenage daughter went public with his story of being detained by airport security personnel after flight attendants on his plane became suspicious that the girl was being kidnapped or trafficked. They approached her while he was in the restroom and asked her questions. Whatever she told them apparently didn’t assuage their worry.

He said that security personnel let him go quickly, but he was left shaken and still wondering why he and his daughter were singled out for questioning. Some parents traveling alone with a child are more likely to be subject to questioning.

Men are more likely than women to be suspected of child trafficking. Parents with adopted children of another race or ethnicity or parents with biracial children who don’t look like them may also arouse suspicion. A parent and child with different last names may also be questioned.

What to bring along

The best way to prevent added questioning from ruining your vacation is to be prepared. That means bringing along plenty of documentation, including:

  • A copy of your child’s birth certificate or adoption papers
  • Copies of your divorce decree and custody order
  • A copy of your consent to travel letter signed by your co-parent (which is always a good idea to have, even if your custody order doesn’t require it)
  • Family photos on your phone

It’s also a good idea to prepare your child for questioning so they don’t become afraid or angry. Holding your own anger in check is important, too. Understanding why parents sometimes get this added scrutiny can help you take it less personally. If you have any concerns about whether you have sufficient documentation when traveling with your child, getting legal guidance can be valuable.