Often we are asked by separated or divorced parents, who are vacationing with their children overseas under the terms of their temporary orders or final judgments, whether a parental consent form or permission letter signed by the non-traveling parent is required. Although the United States does not formally require this documentation, we recommend that the traveling parent obtain such a signed and notarized consent form from the non-traveling parent, and that the agreements we draft contain a provision that obligates the non-traveling parent to provide such a consent form upon request from the traveling parent.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Department of Homeland Security (“CBP”) has helpful information on this subject; and various websites offer free forms for this purpose. As stated on their website, the CBP may not ask to see a consent form, but if they do ask, and a traveling parent does not have the written permission of the non-traveling parent, or if another relative or other individual traveling with a minor does not have the written permission of both parents, the traveling individual may be detained until CBP is assured that the traveling individual indeed has the permission of the child’s legal guardian(s) to travel with the child outside of the United States. Obtaining the proper form ahead of time, having your agreement require that the non-traveling parent sign the form, and erring on the side of caution in this regard by having a signed and notarized consent form with you when you travel, could help you avoid unnecessary delay and a significant disruption in your travel plans.