Anyone who’s traveling alone – especially by air – for the first time with their child during spring break should expect added challenges. If you’re separated or divorcing, you may not know exactly what to expect.
One thing it’s wise to expect is some added scrutiny from Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents and other security employees. If one of these situations applies to you, be prepared for a lot of questions:
- Your child is biracial or multiracial and looks more like their other parent than you.
- You have an adopted child of a different race or ethnicity than yours.
- Your child has your co-parent’s last name, while you don’t.
It’s only normal to be triggered when you get questions about your child’s identity and your parentage. You’ve likely heard them all. However, unlike the nosy lady in the grocery store, you can’t tell a TSA agent to mind their own business.
Documentation to have ready
The best thing you can do to keep you and your child moving is to answer patiently and have more than enough documentation. This includes copies of:
- Your child’s birth certificate or adoption form
- Your temporary or final custody agreement
- Your divorce decree, if you have it
- Your consent to travel letter
This last one is particularly important for co-parents to have the other sign when either of them travels with their child if the custody agreement isn’t final or they’re making an exception to that agreement (by traveling overseas, for example).
It’s also a good idea to have some photos ready on your phone of your family, including your co-parent in case someone in authority asks. The more information you provide, the less likely they are to question your child.
Why security agents question some families more than others
Before you get too frustrated with all the questions and requests for documentation, remember that security agents have a responsibility to be on the lookout for child traffickers. One sign can be an adult with a child who looks nothing like them. Of course, that applies to a lot of parents and children.
If you’re still working out your custody agreement, it’s wise to consider how much traveling you plan to do with your child and to where. Being able to incorporate this into the agreement and parenting plan can save you from having to get your co-parent’s authorization later.