The summer holidays are fast approaching and many families will no doubt be looking forward to travelling abroad, possibly for the first time since the pandemic began. This may also be the first holiday you are taking since separating from your spouse. In addition to the often lengthy checklist you will be putting together to ensure nothing is forgotten (such as passports, visas, e-tickets and any airline-specific travel requirements, proof of up to date vaccinations and plenty of sunscreen) there may be additional documents that you are required to take with you. 

Prior to travelling abroad, you will need permission from the other parent (or anyone else who has parental responsibility for your child) or a court order.  It is important to know what documents you may be required to take with you and ensure that they are prepared in a timely manner ahead of your intended trip. The documents needed may vary depending upon any specific requirements of the country to which you will be travelling. 

To ensure you do not encounter any difficulties it is recommended that you take the following documents with you:

  • Court order (if any);
  • A letter signed by the other parent consenting to the child travelling overseas (or by both parents if the child is travelling with a non-parent, such as grandparents or family friends). The letter should include important details about the travel being undertaken such as dates of travel, countries being visited and who the child is travelling with and the non-travelling parent’s contact details;
  • Copy of the child’s birth certificate; and
  • Marriage certificate or final divorce order (formerly known as decree absolute) if you have a different surname to your child.

Other countries (and airlines) may also have specific requirements for entry/departure.  It is therefore crucial that you are aware of these prior to travel to ensure you do not run into any difficulties prior to departure, or when trying to return home. You should check the requirements with the embassy or consulate of the relevant country.  Examples of documents (in addition to the child’s passport and any relevant court order) that you may be asked to provide include:

Australia - the written consent of the other parent where there is no court order.  Written consent must be in a prescribed form by each party (where court proceedings are pending) or by each person whose favour the parenting order was made (where certain parenting orders have been made).

Canada – copies of the legal custody documents and a letter of authorisation signed by the non-travelling parent (and with that parent’s address and telephone number and a photocopy of their signed passport or national identity card). 

South Africa – birth certificate (or “equivalent document” such as a letter issued by a foreign government) and a Parental Consent Affidavit from the non-travelling parent whose details are recorded on the birth certificate or equivalent document.

United States – a letter of consent.

Please note that the above is current at the time of publication and is not an exhaustive list. It does not take into account any vaccination requirements, including in relation to rules concerning Covid-19 vaccination status. If you have any questions or concerns then you should obtain legal advice well in advance of any intended travel dates.