With ongoing political turmoil south of the border, continued uncertainty with respect to who may be allowed to enter the U.S.A, and consistent stories of Canadians being turned away at the American border for insufficient documentation or other reasons, travel outside of Canada is becoming a top of mind issue to many. This may be particularly anxiety-inducing for parents who are travelling alone with minor children, or parents whose children may be travelling without them.

In order to avoid potential problems with international travel, travel consent letters are strongly recommended. This week, we explore some common questions that arise with respect to these letters.

Who Should Consider a Travel Consent Letter

Travel consent letters should be obtained where:

  • A minor child (i.e- in Ontario, child under the age of 18) will be travelling alone;
  • A minor child will be travelling without their parents or custodial guardians but with a coach, grandparent or other family member, friends, or others;
  • A minor child who will be travelling with only one of their parents.

A travel consent letter demonstrates that children travelling have permission to travel from every parent or guardian who is not accompanying them.

Are Travel Consent Letters Mandatory?

Travel consent letters are not mandatory and there is no legal requirement to obtain one; however, the letters are highly recommended by both family lawyers and the Government of Canada.

A travel consent letter may be requested at any time during your trip by immigration authorities/border agents when you enter or exit a foreign country, by airline employees, or by Canadian officials when you re-enter the country.

If you are asked to produce a letter and you do not have one, your entry or exit from another country may be refused, or your trip may be delayed.

Who Should Sign the Travel Consent Letter?

The travel consent letter should be signed by parents who are not accompanying children on the trip:

  • One or both parents who are married, or common law, and live with the child;
  • One or both parents who are separated, divorced, or do not live together;
  • One or more individuals (or organizations) with guardianship rights and responsibility for care of the child (for example, foster parents);
  • Anyone who is obligated, by court order, to sign a travel consent letter.

What If I Have Sole Custody?

Even where a parent has sole custody of a child, it is still strongly recommended that a travel consent letter is signed by the parent with custodial rights and the parent with access (i.e.- visitation) rights.

What If My Ex Has Been Denied Access Rights?

In situations where a parent has been denied access rights by court order, the parent with full or sole custody does not require a travel consent letter from the other parent. However, the parent with custody should carry a copy of the court order when travelling outside of Canada to minimize any potential problems.

What If My Ex Does Not Want to Sign a Travel Consent Letter?

If your former spouse does not want to sign a travel consent letter, you should seek the advice of your family lawyer. You may also seek help from your parenting coordinator (if you have one), a mediator, or apply for an order from a Family Court. Generally, judges will permit parents to travel alone with children, unless the trip will present a danger to the child (i.e.- if the travel is to a war zone or other dangerous location, or where there is a concern that a travelling parent will not return to Canada with the child).

The Government of Canada has published a helpful resource for parents with questions about international travel for children; however, your best source of information about international travel with children is your family lawyer.

If you have questions about travelling with your child, about travel consent letters, or if you would like a travel consent letter drafted and notarized, contact Windsor family lawyer Jason P. Howie at 519.973.1500 or online. We regularly assist clients with issues related to separation and divorce and children, including child custody and support, and shared parenting.