Are you planning a family vacation abroad with your children? If you are travelling without the child’s other parent due to a separation or divorce, there are various matters to consider before packing your bags, as issues may arise when crossing the Canadian border with your children alone. To ensure your trip runs smoothly, it is critical to be proactive in obtaining the necessary paperwork and documents you may need throughout your travels, including travel consent forms.

This blog post will explain what travel consent forms are and will explore commonly asked questions regarding these documents.

What is a travel consent form?

A travel consent form is a consent letter, provided by a parent or guardian who is not accompanying the child on a trip, which confirms that the child has permission to travel outside of Canada.

Why do I need to have a travel consent form?

Using a travel consent form can help protect your child against international child abduction. International child abduction can occur when one parent travels abroad with their child without the other parent’s permission. Specifically, this applies to parents with parenting time or decision-making powers for the child. On a practical basis, having a travel consent may make it easier to pass through Canadian and foreign passport control.

Canada is a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which promotes the protection of “children internationally from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention and to establish procedures to ensure their prompt return to the State of their habitual residence, as well as to secure protection for rights of access.” In Ontario, section 19 of the Children’s Law Reform Act outlines one of its purposes to “discourage the abduction of children as an alternative to the determination of decision-making responsibility by due process.”

However, international child abduction does not only happen when a parent leaves Canada with a child. Canadian laws may be engaged if a parent comes to Canada with a child from a different country without the other parent’s consent. To learn more about how Canadian law responds to parents travelling to Canada with children without the other parent, you can read our blog post “Parenting Conflicts Cross Borders in International Child Abductions.”

When is a travel consent form required?

The Canadian government recommends that a travel consent form be signed and used for all international travel when a child travels alone, with only one parent, with friends or relatives, or with a school, sports or religious group. It is also recommended that parents who are not joining the child on a trip sign a travel consent form for international travel. This recommendation applies to all trips abroad, regardless of the mode of transportation or the trip duration.

In situations where both parents are present at the beginning of the trip, but one parent stays abroad with the child longer than the other, it is still recommended to make use of a travel consent form.

While Canadian law does not necessarily require travel consent forms, the Canadian government still recommends using a travel consent form.

Do I need a travel consent form if we are married or common-law?

In cases where the child’s parents are married or common-law, it is still recommended that the parent who is not travelling with the child should sign a travel consent form. The parents’ marital status is not necessarily a relevant consideration for international travel, but rather, the fact that the child’s parents have an interest in their child’s travel plans.

What if I am separated or divorced?

If you are separated or divorced, the Canadian government suggests that the travel consent letter should be signed by the parent who is not accompanying the child on the trip if they have either parenting time or decision-making responsibility for the child.

What if I am the only parent of my child?

There are various reasons why you may be considered the only parent of your child.

If you have are a child’s sole parent, it is recommended that you bring a document demonstrating that you are the child’s only parent, such as a long-form birth certificate or, if the child’s other parent has died, you are encouraged to bring a copy of the other parent’s death certificate when travelling alone with your child.

Does a travel consent form need to be notarized?

There is no legal requirement for a travel consent form to be notarized. However, the Canadian government recommends that the travel consent form be signed and witnessed before a notary public. A travel consent form that is notarized may help minimize questions regarding the letter’s authenticity.

At what age does my child no longer require a travel consent form?

Just like the age of majority differs in each province and territory, the age requirement for consent letters can vary. In Ontario, the age of majority is 18. However, as a precaution, the Canadian government recommends preparing a travel consent letter for any child under the age of 19 years old.

Do all of my children need a signed travel consent form?

If more than one of your children is joining you on your trip, the government allows each child from the same family to be named on one single travel consent form. For example, if you have two children with your previous spouse, both children can be on the same travel consent form. However, if you are travelling with two children with your previous spouse as well as a child from your second marriage, you would require two travel consent forms – one signed by the parent of your two children, and one signed by the spouse of your second marriage.

What information is required in a travel consent form?

While there are no legal requirements for the information contained in a travel consent letter, the government provides a general checklist of information that the signed travel consent form should contain, including:

– The name of the child;

– The names and contact information of the parents or guardians;

– The name and relationship of the person who is travelling with the child; and

– Information about whether the child is travelling and how long the trip will be.

To ensure that your travel consent form adheres to the recommended guidelines, it is important to consult with a trusted family law lawyer. In cases where one parent has concerns over international child abduction, for example if the other parent travels with a child without a specific return date or engages in frequent international travel with your child, it is also critical to speak with an experienced lawyer to ensure you are aware of your rights and options under the applicable laws.

Contact the Family Lawyers at Boulby Weinberg LLP for Trusted Advice Regarding International Travel with Children

The skilled family lawyers at Boulby Weinberg LLP in Toronto can help make your travel plans easier and put your mind at ease before your next trip. Regardless of whether both parents agree to the trip, or you are concerned about the risk of international abduction, our family law team is ready to help. We have extensive experience advising clients on complex international matters regarding international child abduction and we provide clients with tailored solutions to ensure that their children return home safely.To speak with a member of our team regarding your travel concerns, please contact us online or call our office at 647-494-0113 ext. 102.