Resources & Insights

What is Required if I am Separated and Travelling Outside of the Country With Our Children?

The requirements when travelling with your children without the other parent present will differ depending on your situation. As a precaution, it is always wise to check the requirements of the particular country (or countries) you will be travelling to as border officials can decide whether or not to permit you and your children entry or exit. There are, however, some general guidelines that should help avoid travel delays.

If you have a parenting plan, separation agreement or court order that explicitly states that you do not need the other parent’s permission to travel internationally with your children, it is important to travel with a copy to prove you do not need their consent.

Even if you have all the decision-making responsibility (formerly known as custody), you may still be required to show that you have consent to travel with your children from the other parent who has parenting time (formerly known as access) if you do not have any explicit documents that state you do not require their consent to travel internationally with the children. A consent letter is recommended as proof of the non-travelling parent’s consent.

A consent letter (you can find a template here) may be requested by immigration authorities when entering or leaving a foreign country, airline agents or Canadian officials when re-entering Canada. While there is no legal requirement in Canada that children travelling with only one parent/guardian must carry a consent letter, it is strongly recommended that they do to avoid potentially significant travel delays or refusals to enter or exit a country.

While there are no hard and fast rules about what the letter should say, it should be as detailed as possible and include information such as:

  • your child’s full name
  • your child’s passport number
  • your child’s date of birth
  • your travel dates
  • the places you are going to
  • your contact information while traveling
  • your full name
  • your passport number
  • your relationship to the child
  • the non-travelling parent’s full name
  • the non-travelling parent’s contact information

While anyone who has reached the age of majority (18 or 19 depending on your province/territory of residence) can witness the signing of the letter, it is strongly recommended that your partner sign the letter in front of a notary public. A notary public is a person who is able to verify a person’s signature on a document, and their stamp of approval decreases the likelihood of border officials questioning the authenticity of the letter.

These recommendations regarding consent letters apply regardless of the marital status of the parents (single, married, common-law, separated divorced or never married). If there are multiple children and they will all be travelling together for the entirety of the trip, one letter that includes all of them is acceptable.

Where children are travelling with one parent and the other parent is deceased, it is recommended that they travel with a copy of the death certificate.

Where children are travelling alone, or with other adults who are not their parents/guardians, a consent letter from each parent witnessed by a notary public, or a joint letter witnessed by a notary public is strongly recommended. If there are multiple adults, it is not necessary for every person to be named. One identified accompanying adult that will be with the child for the entirety of the trip, perhaps a grandparent or the group leader, is suggested. 

Written by Jessica Commanda and Nadine Finbow