Flying with your child after separation or divorce can be challenging – especially if they’re young. Simply not having that extra set of arms can make things significantly more difficult.
Having to deal with questions about your relationship to your child as you go through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and other security checkpoints can be an unexpected and frustrating part of being a single parent.
Why you might face added scrutiny
If you have a biracial child who more closely resembles your co-parent or an adopted child of a different race or ethnicity, you’ll need to be prepared for additional TSA scrutiny. You may also get additional questioning if your child has your co-parent’s last name and you don’t.
Some questions about your relationship to your child can be triggering if you’re more used to getting them from a person behind you in the grocery store or another parent in the school drop-off line. However, security personnel at airports have an obligation to watch for children who have been kidnapped or are being trafficked. A single adult traveling with a child of another race or ethnicity may elicit additional scrutiny as a result.
Bring plenty of documentation
By being prepared, you’ll minimize the chances that an agent will ask your child questions (which is permissible) and possibly upset them. Have a small folder in a carry-on bag with your child’s birth certificate, adoption papers (if applicable), passport (if it’s required) and custody order. It can help to have photos on your phone of your child with both parents.
If you needed a consent to travel letter from your co-parent to take this trip with your child, have that ready too. These letters are a good idea for both parents to get even if they’re not required. This is particularly true in the early days of co-parenting or if there are trust issues. They can help parents feel more secure about their child’s whereabouts and well-being when they’re not in one of their homes.
Don’t wait until the last minute to make sure that you have any necessary permission from your co-parent to travel with your child. If you have questions or run into problems, seeking trusted legal guidance can help.